Volleyball: Northwestern looks to end poor conference start in home match against Iowa

Maddie+Slater+spikes+the+ball.+The+senior+middle+blocker+is+fourth+on+the+Wildcats+in+kills+ahead+of+a+home+matchup+with+Iowa+on+Saturday.

Daily file photo by Zack Laurence

Maddie Slater spikes the ball. The senior middle blocker is fourth on the Wildcats in kills ahead of a home matchup with Iowa on Saturday.

Aidan Markey, Reporter


Volleyball


Northwestern is looking to turn things around.

The Wildcats (7-8, 0-3 Big Ten) will host Iowa (11-4, 1-2) on Saturday as they search for their first Big Ten victory of the season. The Hawkeyes are coming off their first conference win, a 3-0 sweep of Maryland.

Coach Shane Davis said NU must put together a steady overall game to earn its first conference victory.

“We have to be able to do our jobs in balancing it out,” Davis said of the team’s offensive and defensive play. “Otherwise, it’s too easy for teams to load up on us. That’s what (Ohio State) was able to do.”

The Cats are fresh off a 3-0 loss to the Buckeyes, the third team to sweep them in four matches. A stretch of defeats is not how NU wanted to open conference play, and the team must now face the rest of its grueling Big Ten schedule.

Senior middle blocker Maddie Slater said it is clear how the Cats must approach the upcoming match against Iowa.

“We’re gonna use what we learned from this match to prepare for Iowa and to really just work on the things in practice the next couple days,” Slater said. “We’re excited to play at home.”

Slater ranks fourth on the team in kills. One of Slater’s front line teammates, senior right side hitter Kayla Morin, ranks third for NU.

Morin said for the Cats to perform well throughout the remainder of conference play, they must take every match one at a time.

“In the Big Ten, every night you play a top team in the nation” Morin said. “If you start thinking too far in advance and toward games in the weeks ahead, you’re going to get lost and you’re not going to be able to perform your best.”

In addition to this approach, NU aims to make some small changes to its game plans.

Davis said the team will look to use sophomore libero Katie Kniep in more situations for the upcoming matches.

“She’s been really focusing on her serve receive and has really improved that,” Davis said. “The next thing is that we need to challenge her on the defensive end.”

The Hawkeyes have a strong record and talented players at some positions, including junior Annika Olsen, who ranks third in the Big Ten with 4.29 digs per set, and senior Loxley Keala, who is third in the conference in assists per set at 11.38.

The Cats are aware that they will encounter some superior teams throughout the demanding Big Ten season. They are confident, though, in their ability to earn some conference wins.

Morin said NU will focus on game-to-game preparation while striving to notch its first Big Ten victory.

“They might have bigger players and more physical players than us, and that’s just maybe the reality of it,” Morin said. “I think if we can scout them and know their tendencies, we can really use that as an advantage as we get into the meat of the Big Ten season.”

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Twitter: @AidanMarkey

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