Volleyball: Northwestern suffers disappointing loss to Illinois


Nathan Richards/Daily Senior Staffer

Taylor Tashima sets the ball for a spike. The true freshman setter has excelled in her first year, starting 22 games for the Wildcats.

Khadrice Rollins, Reporter


The Wildcats (15-10, 5-9 Big Ten) once again followed up an impressive win with a disappointing loss, this time at the hand of in-state rival No. 9 Illinois (19-6, 11-3).

The Fighting Illini flipped the script on the Cats, jumping out to a 2-0 lead to start the game Saturday, the opposite of what happened in the previous matchup between the two. Although Northwestern was able to win the first two sets in the matchup on Wednesday with Illinois 25-20 and 25-22, it fell 25-15 and 26-24 to start Saturday’s contest.

“I wish that after beating Illinois on Wednesday, we would have come out with the mentality we could beat them again,” junior Caroline Niedospial said. “But I felt that, especially in the first set against Illinois, we came out pretty flat and had a completely different mindset than we did Wednesday.”

The Cats never held a lead in the first set, and despite strong play in the second that went to extra points, they found themselves in a hole they could not overcome.

The team was, however, able to rally to win the third set 25-22 before eventually falling in the fourth 25-16, and losing the match 3-1.

“We want to pride ourselves on being fighters,” coach Keylor Chan said. “You’re up against the wall. You got to fight. You got to find a different level of execution and devotion mentally and push yourself to execute on the highest level you can.”

Chan pointed to unforced errors as one of the main reasons sets two and three had such different outcomes for the team compared to sets one and four. The team had 34 errors in the game while Illinois totaled 16. NU had 20 of its errors in the opening and closing sets combined.

In the second and third sets, however, the team said it was more aggressive, and that was one of the key reasons for the difference in play.

“Illinois puts up a really big block, so they’re very physical at the net,” freshman Taylor Tashima said. “You need to match that with really physical attacking … We put a lot more pressure on them in the second and third sets.”

Niedospial, who led the team with 27 digs in the match, also discussed how the hitters attacked Illinois differently in the middle sets.

“Our hitters came out hitting more in those two sets and didn’t really let the fact that there are really tall blockers in front of us affect the aggressiveness,” she said.

Although moral victories are not counted toward the record, the team’s play Saturday combined with the win Wednesday has it looking in a positive direction as the season approaches its final weeks. With Tashima accounting for 26 of NU’s 44 assists on Saturday and fellow freshman Symone Abbott collecting a team high 13 kills, one does not have to look hard to see the good in NU’s near future.

“We can compete with the best in the nation,” Tashima said. “Illinois is one of the top programs in the country, and we know that when we get pushed to a high level, we have to keep that high level going for the rest of our games.”

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