Volleyball: Northwestern looking to earn first Big Ten victory at Ohio State

Rachael+Fara+winds+up+for+a+kill.+The+sophomore+middle+blocker+and+the+Wildcats+are+looking+for+their+first+Big+Ten+win+of+the+season.

Daily file photo by Sam Schumacher

Rachael Fara winds up for a kill. The sophomore middle blocker and the Wildcats are looking for their first Big Ten win of the season.

Aidan Markey, Reporter


Volleyball


It’s crunch time for Northwestern.

After dropping their first two Big Ten matches of the season, the Wildcats (7-7, 0-2 Big Ten) will travel to Columbus, Ohio to face the No. 19 Ohio State (10-4, 0-2) on Wednesday in search of their first victory in almost two weeks.

It will be NU’s second match of the season against a ranked opponent. In the Cats’ first on Sunday, they lost their home-opener to then-No. 18 Penn State.

For the Buckeyes, the match comes in the midst of a four-game stretch that includes contests against the top three teams in the country.

Coach Shane Davis expects junior outside hitter Symone Abbott, NU’s offensive leader, to be a focal point of the match on both sides of the net.

“Symone’s going to be one that everyone keys in on, so she is in tough spots,” Davis said. “She has to be able to get herself out of those situations and hit some better shots.”

Abbott, the conference leader with 4.21 kills per set, has recorded double digit kills in every match this season.

In addition to her offensive prowess, Abbott’s 1.90 digs per set rank fourth on the Cats’ roster.

“We’re asking her to do a lot,” Davis said. “So hopefully she can thrive with what we are doing with her.”

NU has recently struggled with consistency. The Cats have dropped their past three matches and five out of their last seven. They also had an up-and-down weekend at the University of Northern Iowa Tournament just before Big Ten play.

Abbott recognizes the Cats must be more consistent in order to compete with the top-tier conference teams.

“We just have to make sure that our offense is good while our passing is good,” Abbott said, adding that aggressive serving will help NU put together a solid, complete match.

While Abbott is the catalyst of NU’s attack, the team does have other weapons. Junior middle blocker Gabrielle Hazen, senior outside hitter Rafae Strobos and sophomore middle blocker Rachael Fara have also contributed at times throughout the season.

Hazen has 114 kills on the season while Strobos has notched 48, and Fara had a strong start to the match in the Cats’ loss to the Nittany Lions.

“We’re giving (Rachael) some good opportunities,” Davis said, who also noted that Fara’s confidence and aggressiveness in her swing are key to her success on the court.

With both teams desperately searching for a first Big Ten win, NU will likely see yet another competitive conference match.

Fara admitted that the Cats have struggled against powerful hitters and large blocks, but said NU must focus on what it can do to best combat a team like Ohio State.

“We always have our scouts. We always have our systems that we want to run,” Fara said. “(But) they’re going to get kills. They’re going to get blocks. They’re good teams. The best way to combat that sometimes is just to control the ball and keep it in.”

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