Volleyball: Fueled by Penn State upset, Cats try for repeat performance

Sophomore+setter+Taylor+Tashima+and+freshman+middle+blocker+Rachael+Fara+leap+to+block+a+return.+NU+is+coming+off+of+a+victory+against+Penn+State+but+now+has+to+welcome+Nebraska+to+Evanston+for+the+Cats%E2%80%99+fifth-straight+contest+against+a+ranked+opponent.

Zack Laurence/ The Daily Northwestern

Sophomore setter Taylor Tashima and freshman middle blocker Rachael Fara leap to block a return. NU is coming off of a victory against Penn State but now has to welcome Nebraska to Evanston for the Cats’ fifth-straight contest against a ranked opponent.

Sophie Mann, Photo Editor

There’s no place like home for Northwestern, especially after a stunning win last weekend against then-No. 3 Penn State, but the Wildcats’ work is just beginning.

This weekend, the Cats (11-6, 3-3) are taking on now-No. 3 Nebraska (14-2, 5-1) and Iowa (10-9, 0-6). Though homecourt advantage proved to be a legitimate force for the Cats this weekend, the team cannot get ahead when it comes to a team like the Cornhuskers, who are also ranked third in the Big Ten.

Junior outside hitter Kayla Morin spoke about the team’s goal to continue working hard and amping up intensity without fixating too much on this one impressive win.

“We want to find a balance of taking the momentum from the Penn State match without looking back to the past,” Morin said. “We have to focus on the technique and intensity.”

Along with working hard in practice, being aggressive on the court pushed the team past the Nittany Lions. Junior outside hitter Rafae Strobos came off the bench in the Penn State match to score two aces, putting pressure on the Nittany Lions from the service line, something Morin said the team has been working on.

Strobos mentioned her teammates helped her be more aggressive, a strategy she plans to take into their upcoming matchups against Iowa and Nebraska.

Head coach Keylor Chan said the Penn State win gave the girls a “glimpse of what the possibilities are when you come together” but reminds the women not to get complacent, especially continuing to go up against big opponents and going on the road again in a week.

Chan also spoke about how it’s the team’s prerogative to use this win as fuel without letting it overtake motivation to work hard and remain focused in practice.

“Our biggest thing is to stay humble and get better in the gym every day,” Chan said. “The biggest thing is that the players are really responsible for the air in the gym; they’re responsible for how they want to attack the game.”

Both Strobos and Morin emphasized Chan’s focuses of “repeatability” and not becoming complacent. Chan said the Cats cannot become complacent in this victory because letting up on training can cost them against the two upcoming conference opponents.

Even against a relatively weaker side like Iowa, the Cats will need to bring their best volleyball to Evanston to keep up their energy, especially trips to both West Lafayette and Bloomington, Indiana, loom in the near future.

If the Cats can repeat their outstanding performance against this weekend’s opponents, the team will be displaying its dominance in the Big Ten and in the NCAA. The team knows this and is anxious for its second weekend to shine in front of its peers.

“We don’t want to rest on this win,” Morin said. “It definitely gives us the confidence that, if we can compete with the previous national champions, we can compete against anyone.”

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