Volleyball: Short-term memory a must for Wildcats in Illinois home-and-home


Daniel Tian/Daily Senior Staffer

Sophomore middle blocker Gabrielle Hazen leaps for a spike. Hazen and the Wildcats will count on their resiliency as they look to win a rematch with Illinois on Saturday.

Max Gelman, Assistant Sports Editor


Northwestern will need to move on quickly after dropping the first game of its home-and-home series against No. 18 Illinois.

After losing a tight 3-2 match to the Fighting Illini (16-8, 7-6 Big Ten) on Wednesday, the Wildcats (13-11, 5-8) face Illinois again Saturday, this time in Champaign. NU’s defeat marked the first time since 2012 it fell to its in-state rivals at home.

Coach Keylor Chan said that normally the second game of a home-and-home is easier than the first.

“(Neither) team is going to radically do anything different from one match to the other,” Chan said about making adjustments between games. “It’s going to be execution and some small changes.”

Chan added that, because the first match took place on a Wednesday instead of a Friday, his team got a break from the monotony of its rough October schedule.

Sophomore hitter Symone Abbott, who struggled Wednesday despite tallying 16 kills, sees benefits in playing the same team in back-to-back games. She agreed with Chan, saying that once she sees what her opponent can do, fine-tuning her game becomes a simpler task.

“You don’t have to do another (scouting report) — you already know them,” Abbott said. “You play them first and you’ll either win or lose, but in the second game you’re going to come back with more intensity because you’re playing them again … you want to prove a point and redeem your loss.”

Following three straight matches with at least a .233 hitting percentage, Abbott regressed against the Fighting Illini, hitting at a .073 clip, her lowest output since Oct. 9 versus then-No. 9 Ohio State. Abbott’s 12 errors were a season high and the second-most of her career.

NU has seen its fair share of good teams this season, having the hardest schedule in the country. When it comes to managing expectations after tough losses, sophomore hitter Gabrielle Hazen said the team goes into each game not necessarily expecting to win, but to play well.

“You get the feeling coming off a win like (Michigan State) — you try to carry and maintain that momentum,” Hazen said. “If you have an off game (like Illinois) we know that everybody else is there to pick you up.”

Hazen certainly was not “off” against the Fighting Illini on Wednesday as she tallied 11 kills, her most in a conference game this season.

Chan also said he wants his team to focus on the outcomes of games less, especially since the Big Ten is loaded with good teams. Although winning is fun, Chan said it’s important to keep the bigger picture in mind.

“We’re just trying to enjoy the process, as crazy as it sounds,” Chan said. “Winning and losing is just 32 days out of the 365 that we’ve been training and working … When you lose, the sun will rise the next day and you move on, and if you win the same thing’s going to happen.”

For the Cats to stay afloat in the Big Ten standings, Saturday’s game is a must-win as three and a half games separate the fourth through 10th place teams.

NU’s final match against Illinois begins at 7 p.m.

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