Volleyball: Tashima’s triple-double not enough as Wildcats blow lead to Minnesota

The+Wildcats+have+lost+nine+of+their+last+11+matchups.+They%E2%80%99ve+only+won+one+match+on+the+road+since+the+start+of+September.

Nathan Richards/Daily Senior Staffer

The Wildcats have lost nine of their last 11 matchups. They’ve only won one match on the road since the start of September.

Max Gelman, Reporter


Volleyball


Looking for their first win at Minnesota since 2005, the Wildcats (15-11, 5-10 in Big Ten) failed to pull through, falling to the Golden Gophers (16-10, 6-9) in four sets Wednesday.

Northwestern played well early on, with freshman Symone Abbott notching five kills in the first set. However, things went south after the Cats blew a 4-point lead in the second.

“We needed to execute at a higher level,” coach Keylor Chan said after the loss. “We were controlling the match, and we let it slip away. You have to capitalize when you have control … and we didn’t.”

The first set began with multiple service and attack errors from both sides, but the teams managed to split the first 16 points. Minnesota went out in front for a little, but NU tied up the game again at 12. The Cats went in front thanks to back-to-back kills from Abbott. Led by strong serving by senior Monica McGreal, NU went on a 8-1 run, taking a commanding 20-13 lead. Minnesota tried to muster a comeback, but the Cats denied them, taking the first 25-20.

Set number two started off closely again: Behind two key blocks by Abbott, NU split the first 10 points. The Cats then went out in front 10-7 before the Gophers called their first timeout. NU maintained control of the second, but Minnesota never fell far behind, staying within 3 points of the lead until their second timeout when the Cats led 18-14. The Gophers came out of the stoppage with 3 straight points, forcing coach Keylor Chan to take his first timeout. NU was unable to stop the quick momentum shift as the Gophers took the lead, and eventually the set 25-20.

“I think Minnesota just really came back at us and kind of caught us off guard for a moment,” said sophomore hitter Kayla Morin, who led the team with 17 kills. “We were playing well the first two sets and expected to keep riding that wave, and then Minnesota kind of took us by surprise there.”

Freshman Taylor Tashima, who notched her second triple-double in the past three games, offered her thoughts succinctly.

“Their offense picked up,” she said. “They were in-system a lot more than the first set. We didn’t respond accordingly.”

The third set began much like the first two, back and forth with both teams each winning eleven of the first twenty-two points. The Gophers began to pull away from the Cats, leading 16-13 as Chan took a timeout. Minnesota never took its foot off the gas, and suddenly NU found itself down 2-1 as the Gophers won the third 25-18.

Minnesota started off the fourth set well, taking 7-4 and 14-10 leads early on. The Cats were hanging by a thread, trying to swing the momentum back in their favor. Unfortunately for NU, it simply wasn’t in the cards. The Gophers closed out the fourth on a 7-1 run, and the Cats remained winless at the Sports Pavilion for nine straight seasons, losing the fourth set 25-15 and the match 3-1.

“She’s been great. She’s really been leading and doing the things we need her to do to put ourselves in the position to be successful,” Chan said, regarding Tashima’s triple-double.

One thing that everyone seemed to agree needs work heading into Saturday’s tilt with Purdue? Blocking.

“We needed to execute some things blocking-wise,” Chan said. “We blocked pretty poorly tonight. Even though we generated some good blocks, we didn’t really control (opposing) hitters like we needed to. In the Big Ten you have to control them more or you’re going to get the tough end of it.”

Morin echoed her coach.

“(What) we need to improve on the most is blocking,” she said. “Making sure we know where to line up and really focusing on our technique there.”

Tashima agreed.

“Definitely blocking,” she said. “Purdue is a really offensive team like Minnesota. At home (against Purdue) it was a really close match, it went to five and came down to the last few points. It’s going to be a really aggressive match.”

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Twitter: @MaxGelman

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