Volleyball: Wildcats finding themselves consistently inconsistent


Daily file photo by Zack Laurence

Symone Abbott waits for the ball to be served. The sophomore outside hitter totaled 19 kills this weekend for the Cats but was unable to help lift NU to a victory in either contest.

Max Gelman, Assistant Sports Editor


Northwestern has a consistency problem.

Just two weeks after quite possibly the biggest upset in program history in a 3-2 win over No. 3 Penn State, the Wildcats (12-9, 4-6 Big Ten) have dropped three of their last four matches. NU’s play this weekend left it on the wrong side of two 3-0 matches, falling to No. 19 Purdue (17-4, 8-2) on Friday and Indiana (13-9, 3-7) on Saturday.

“We need to figure out how to execute at a higher level,” coach Keylor Chan said. “That’s on all of us to just improve … we know we’re capable at times, but it’s just the level of consistency (is lacking.)”

Perhaps the most startling indicator of the Cats’ inconsistency is the fact that all nine of their losses have come as 3-0 sweeps. This includes a stretch bridging September and October where NU strung together three-straight three-set wins and then lost their next trio of matches without clinching a set.

Granted, that losing streak came against three top-20 teams, but the Cats toppled the Nittany Lions in the following match. That unexpected victory is now beginning to look like a fluke.

Since the miracle at Welsh-Ryan two Saturdays ago, NU’s lone win has come against the Iowa Hawkeyes (10-13, 0-10), who have yet to win a Big Ten matchup. Two of their three losses have come against tough teams in No. 3 Nebraska (16-4, 7-3) and the Boilermakers, but falling to the lowly Hoosiers on Saturday epitomizes the Cats’ unpredictability.

“We weren’t technically doing things that we know we can do well,” Chan said. “[Purdue] did a great job of … taking away the angles from our hitters.”

One thing that was consistent over the weekend was NU’s offensive performance. On Friday the Cats managed only a .134 hitting percentage versus Purdue and just .135 the next day against Indiana. However, individual performances varied greatly.

Sophomore Gabrielle Hazen’s weekend hitting percentages varied by .538, as she committed as many kills as errors on Saturday — good for a percentage of .000. In a nearly mirror-image struggle, junior Kayla Morin hit .000 on Friday but then .563 Saturday.

Also on Saturday, junior Maddie Slater, usually NU’s most dependable hitter, turned in a negative hitting percentage in a conference game for the first time in her career at -.200. And junior Sofia Lavin, a transfer who has quickly become a top option in the front row, hit negatively in both weekend matchups, at -.250 and -.214, respectively.

“We’ve got to just let it go,” Chan said about keeping his team optimistic after a rough stretch. “You can’t let this dictate the rest of the year, and we know we have it in us. We’re still in a good situation right now, as tough as it is.”

One player who didn’t appear to be fazed was sophomore Symone Abbott, who registered her best offensive performance in almost a month with a .273 hitting percentage against Indiana. Abbott’s performance so far this year has been underwhelming after bursting into the spotlight last season, but this weekend’s performance may be a sign of improvement.

NU hopes improvement will be consistent for everyone on the team.

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