Volleyball: Cats hoping for a miracle against Minnesota


Daniel Tian/Daily Senior Staffer

Symone Abbott leaps to spike the ball. Despite one of the country’s toughest schedules, the sophomore hitter still hopes that the Cats can reach the NCAA Tournament.

Sophie Mann, Photo Editor


After a painful week fighting then-No. 18 Illinois, Northwestern does not see the light at the end of the tunnel just yet as the Wildcats gear up to take on No. 4 Minnesota.

Although the Wildcats (13-12, 5-9 Big Ten) have home court advantage, they will need far more than just the comforts of Welsh-Ryan Arena to push them past the Golden Gophers (21-3, 13-1). Minnesota occupies the top spot in Big Ten standings.

In addition to an overall strong Gophers team, NU has to be especially worried about senior outside hitter Daly Santana, who leads the Big Ten in kills and is in the Top 20 in the NCAA in kills per set and points per set.

Sophomore outside hitter Symone Abbott leads NU in kills, with 295 this season. Even this impressive number falls short of Santana by more than 100 — Santana has racked up 410.

Abbott said the team is preparing for Santana specifically by working on defending attacks. According to Abbott, the team is well aware of the necessity for heightened performance in the coming games.

“There’s a lot more at stake,” Abbott said. “Even though they’re so good, we have to at least try to beat them or else we’re not going to have a chance to make it to the tournament.”

The only way for the team to pull out a win tomorrow is to reduce the number of errors from this weekend against Illinois.

Abbott said individual players who had many errors in Champaign have been working on reducing mistakes for themselves and that the team as a whole has been trying to get into a good flow.

Coach Keylor Chan is well aware of the uphill battle the team has to fight in the coming match, especially with a player like Santana.

“We know we’re going to have to defend Daly pretty well,” Chan said. “What we are trying to do is limit the factors she can play in the match.”

Like Abbott, Chan also knows how important these last six games are in determining their NCAA Tournament fate, especially their match against Minnesota.

In its last game against Minnesota in September, Chan said the team didn’t convert at important times as well as the Gophers did, and it’s imperative they don’t make those mistakes again Wednesday.

“At this time of the year, it’s about making big plays at big times,” Chan said.

The Cats have three weeks of volleyball before the season ends, and they cannot count themselves out until then. The team needs a rally more than ever to beat the Gophers tomorrow.

It comes down to which team shows up: the team that showed then-No. 3 Penn State that Wildcats are fiercer than the Nittany Lions or the team that couldn’t keep down Indiana, which has only tallied three conference wins this season.

Tomorrow may be the turning point for NU — the Cats need to be on the hunt for glory (or Gopher, as it were) or say goodbye to their hopes of a NCAA Tournament berth.

“We just know it’s do or die now,” Abbott said. “We don’t have any wiggle room anymore.”

A previous version of this story misstated the postseason tournament Northwestern is trying to reach. The Wildcats are playing to make the NCAA Tournament. The Daily regrets the error.

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