Volleyball: Iowa clobbers Northwestern as Wildcats lose fifth straight


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


Almost nothing is going right for Northwestern lately.

The Wildcats (7-9, 0-4 Big Ten) dropped a straight-set match Saturday in a home conference battle with Iowa (12-4, 2-2). The team, still searching for its first Big Ten win, has now lost five consecutive matches, four of which have been sweeps.

“We weren’t in sync,” coach Shane Davis said. “We were a half-step off and not ready to go tonight.”

NU kept the beginning of the first set close, holding the score within two points until a set-closing rally by Iowa allowed the Hawkeyes to turn a 15-13 lead into a 25-18 set win.

The Hawkeyes picked up in the second set where they left off in the first, jumping out to a 5-0 lead and never relenting. The Cats’ numerous communication errors allowed Iowa to capitalize on one-on-one opportunities, and the visitors took the set 25-16.

Junior middle blocker Gabrielle Hazen, who had eight kills in the match, said NU struggled to force the Hawkeyes out of their system.

“They were in system in a lot, which makes its hard for me as a middle to make decisions,” Hazen said. “When they’re getting a perfect pass, it opens up the net for them. So they’re going to be in a lot of one-on-one situations.”

The third set was very similar to the first: NU kept it close to start, but an Iowa run midway through the set helped the visitors take the Cats down and earn a sweep at Welsh-Ryan.

The Cats gave up a .413 hitting percentage on the match to the Hawkeyes, whose team average going into the night was .288. Iowa notched nine blocks and had three players reach 10 or more kills.

Iowa’s game plan was clear: The team wanted to go after Cats junior outside hitter Symone Abbott. The Hawkeyes made a point to serve at Abbott and put two blockers on the Big Ten kills-per-set leader at all times during the night.

Hazen said the team is aware of Abbott’s catalyzing effect on its level of play.

“Symone’s one of our big players,” Hazen said. “If they can slow her down, they slow down a big part of our offense.”

Abbott managed to tally 10 kills, two digs and a block while adjusting to Iowa’s aggressive game plan, but also had eight errors.

Though Abbott had a notable night in some ways — she earned her 1000th career kill and lengthened her streak of consecutive matches with double-digit kills to 26 — she said the Cats have to forget about the match and be ready for what lies ahead of them.

“We just have to focus on the next one,” Abbott said. “We can’t think about (tonight) or else we will get down.”

NU now turns back to the daunting Big Ten schedule as it prepares for a home match against in-state foe Illinois.

Hazen said for the Cats to earn a win, they must put together a much cleaner, more consistent performance.

“Some nights our passing is on; some nights our hitting is on; some nights our blocking is on,”
Hazen said. “We’re really focusing on getting everything clicking at once.”

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