Volleyball: NU pushes for consistent play in next roadtrip


Zack Laurence/The Daily Northwestern

Junior Maddie Slater (center) has been a leader on and off the court this year for the Wildcats, and both her coach and teammates recognize her skills.

Sophie Mann, Photo Editor


After going 2-2 on the road and 2-2 during their homestand, the only thing consistent for the Wildcats (12-7, 4-4) is inconsistency. But they’re hoping to change that this weekend against No. 19 Purdue (15-4, 6-2) and Indiana (12-8, 2-6).

As the Cats prepare to travel for another weekend of hard-hitting conference matchups, the uncertainty from their last two weekends away from Welsh-Ryan Arena does not sit well with the team or head coach Keylor Chan, who’s been pushing the team toward more consistent play all season.

He considers junior middle blocker Maddie Slater, a three-year starter for the Cats, a leader on the court, he said. Slater has more experience hitting than any other player on the team.

Additionally, Slater is a leader outside of conference play. She is ranked in the Top 50 in the NCAA for hitting percentage and most recently showed her dominance on the court against then-first ranked Haleigh Washington during the Cats’ matchup against Penn State.

“Maddie has a ton of fire and passion to win,” Chan said. “Our team needs some of that; you need someone where winning drives them, and she brings that for sure. I think that’s going to make us better.”

Slater knows what it takes to win games. She commented that the team has been working on smaller details of the game, which she thinks will increase wins.

In addition to being practice-minded, Slater also spoke about the importance of consistency, especially against a team like the Boilermakers and even against an unranked Hoosiers team.

“If one person is off, it makes it very inconsistent, so you have to make sure everyone is on the same game plan,” Slater said.

Slater is not the only player hoping — and practicing — for more consistent gameplay. Sophomore middle blocker Gabrielle Hazen is pushing herself, even after being sidelined by several weeks of illness. In this past weekend’s matchup against Iowa, Hazen led the team in blocks, with seven throughout the course of the game.

If this type of gameplay keeps up, the Cats have a fighting chance against an aggressive competitor, such as Purdue, and definitely have a shot against Indiana. But, even with these opponents coming up, Hazen said the team is only focused on “their side of the court” and not on letting the other team’s gameplay get in their heads.

If the Cats can show their dominance this weekend, they will have a serious leg up in their next games, especially on the road. As Chan has said repeatedly, improvement in the Big Ten is the only way to keep up with the Joneses — such as Nebraska, Purdue and Penn State.

“The thing we have been working on together is how to put improvement over results,” Chan said. “And trying to embrace the process of how can I become a better volleyball player and person every day. I think this group has improved in many of those areas, but we still have a long way to go.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @sophiemmann