Volleyball: Sun beginning to set on the Niedospial era

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Volleyball: Sun beginning to set on the Niedospial era

Caroline “Carks” Niedospial (center) celebrates after a win. With the senior libero’s impressive career coming to a close, NU may have a challenge replacing her next season.

Caroline “Carks” Niedospial (center) celebrates after a win. With the senior libero’s impressive career coming to a close, NU may have a challenge replacing her next season.

Daily file photo by Zack Laurence

Caroline “Carks” Niedospial (center) celebrates after a win. With the senior libero’s impressive career coming to a close, NU may have a challenge replacing her next season.

Daily file photo by Zack Laurence

Daily file photo by Zack Laurence

Caroline “Carks” Niedospial (center) celebrates after a win. With the senior libero’s impressive career coming to a close, NU may have a challenge replacing her next season.

Max Gelman, Assistant Sports Editor

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As another season draws to a close, so does senior libero Caroline Niedospial’s Northwestern career.

Currently ranked second in Wildcat history with about 1,700 digs, Niedospial, nicknamed “Carks,” has been a defensive rock for NU (13-14, 5-11 Big Ten) since her sophomore year. In Saturday’s loss to No. 17 Purdue (20-7, 11-5), she found herself in the middle of the action, as always.

“She’s been the heart of the back row as a defender and passer, and overall a great volleyball player,” coach Keylor Chan said of Niedospial. “We’ll definitely miss her.”

Not only has she solidified her position among Cats defensive greats, but also Niedospial has placed second in digs per set in the Big Ten each season since 2013. She even ranked in the top 100 in the nation last year at 63rd and through Wednesday sat 68th for 2015.

Early in her NU career, things didn’t go as planned for Niedospial as she suffered a season-ending injury before her sophomore season and was forced to take a medical redshirt. However, she was undeterred and returned stronger than ever.

“She’s been super steady and so passionate at the same time,” said the Cats’ only other senior, Abbie Kraus. “That’s what makes a great libero. She’s giving us energy on the court but then also giving consistency and steadiness, and that’s what we need.”

Kraus is no slouch herself, acting mainly as NU’s serving specialist by subbing in and out of the game whenever Niedospial’s turn to serve comes up. The Birmingham, Alabama, native has played every match this year and despite only starting in three games, leads the Cats in aces.

Despite the loss of one of his best players when the season ends in two weeks, Chan is not too worried about NU’s team’s future. Although Chan admitted the break in continuity may be challenging, he said he is excited about next season.

“There’s not a program in the nation that isn’t affected by graduation,” Chan said. “We’ll have to reinvent ourselves and continue to push our program forward.”

Before the Cats move forward, they still need to finish this season. NU is mired in a four-game losing streak, in addition to dropping seven of its last eight.

With four games remaining on the schedule and NCAA Tournament hopes dwindling, the Cats are looking to make one last push for the postseason.

“(The season’s) not over yet,” Chan said. “We’re going to try to make some magic happen here at the back-end of the Big Ten.”

Even though NU has the toughest schedule in the country, its final stretch is relatively weak. Aside from a rematch with No. 1 Penn State (24-3, 13-3), who the Cats shockingly upset last month, the upcoming slate features games against opponents who have all lost to NU this year in Michigan State, Iowa and Maryland.

Niedospial and Kraus want to cherish these concluding games as the curtain closes on their careers.

“Carks and I have talked about this, and we want to leave a legacy of (not being) the underdogs anymore,” Kraus said. “This season, we’re still really fighting it … but I think in these four matches, if we come out and play as hard as we can and as long as we can, we can still have a legacy.”

Email: maxgelman2018@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @MaxGelman

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