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Volleyball: Wildcats’ offense continues to struggle in loss to Michigan State

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Volleyball: Wildcats’ offense continues to struggle in loss to Michigan State

Senior Katie Dutchman battles a Purdue defender at the net in a recent match. Dutchman and the Wildcats lost their fourth straight match Wednesday, falling to Michigan State in four sets.

Senior Katie Dutchman battles a Purdue defender at the net in a recent match. Dutchman and the Wildcats lost their fourth straight match Wednesday, falling to Michigan State in four sets.

Nathan Richards/Daily Senior Staffer

Senior Katie Dutchman battles a Purdue defender at the net in a recent match. Dutchman and the Wildcats lost their fourth straight match Wednesday, falling to Michigan State in four sets.

Nathan Richards/Daily Senior Staffer

Nathan Richards/Daily Senior Staffer

Senior Katie Dutchman battles a Purdue defender at the net in a recent match. Dutchman and the Wildcats lost their fourth straight match Wednesday, falling to Michigan State in four sets.

Max Gelman, Reporter

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After tonight’s game, the Wildcats are looking to buy an O for offense.

Looking to reverse the wheels of its fortune Wednesday in the midst of a three-game losing streak, the Cats (15-13, 5-12 Big Ten) fell to the Michigan State Spartans (15-13, 8-8) in four sets. There was simply no offense to be found, as Northwestern only achieved a dreadful .050 hitting percentage during the match.

“It comes down to first-contact serve and pass,” freshman setter Taylor Tashima said after the loss. “I think they won the serve-and-pass game tonight. We know we can definitely play with them, we can play with any team in the Big Ten. We just have to find that consistency.”

A somber Caroline Niedospial expressed her disappointment with the team’s play in the final two sets.

“We just kept letting them get too many strings of points, and once you’re down 6, 7, 8 points it’s really hard to come back. We just couldn’t really click on the court, I felt, and we just let them beat up on us.”

The Cats changed their lineup from the 6-2 they had been using over the past month to a 5-1 tonight, but struggled for much of the evening.

“I think it’s game-to-game right now,” coach Keylor Chan said about the 5-1 lineup. “We’re assessing our opponents, trying to put us in the best matchups. We thought that was, and in the first two sets we (executed), and then didn’t get it done in sets three and four.”

As NU started with the 5-1 lineup, Michigan State got off to a roaring start in the first set by playing dink-and-dunk volleyball, getting key blocks and taking advantage of some out-of-position Cats. After dropping 7 of the first 8 points, NU started to get some momentum going, making it an 11-9 game and pulling within 2 points.

However, the Spartans were determined not to let the Cats advance any further, maintaining control of the set. NU eked out a subpar .088 hitting percentage in the first set, while Michigan State fared much better at .286, and the Spartans won the first by a score of 25-15.

The second frame began more evenly. Michigan State went out in front slightly 8-5, but NU won the next 4 points before Spartan coach Cathy George took a timeout. Eventually, Michigan State regained its momentum. The Spartans tied the set at 18 and threatened to go up 2-0. The teams traded points until the score stood at 20-20, and then the Spartans went up by 3. However, behind strong serving by senior Monica McGreal, the Cats tied it up at 24. A big kill by Kayla Morin and an attack error by the Spartans gave NU the second set, 27-25.

NU got off to another slow start in the third, losing 8 of the opening 10 points, and Michigan State never holding a lead smaller than 6 points. The Cats couldn’t get anything going and dropped the set 25-9 to fall behind 2-1 in the match.

Set four was flat-out dominance by Michigan State, as the Spartans jumped out to a huge 12-1 lead. The Cats could not muster any momentum on the floor, only winning consecutive points three times during the fourth set, as Michigan State went on to win the set 25-13 and the match 3-1.

“It all came down to first ball contact,” Chan said of the third and fourth frames. “We didn’t serve aggressively enough to put them in bad situations, and we didn’t handle the ball behind the block well enough to help our hitters.”

Email: maxgelman2018@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @MaxGelman

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