Volleyball: Northwestern losing streak stretches to seven against No. 1 Minnesota


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Kayla Morin jumps to spike the ball. The senior had seven kills in Northwestern’s three-set defeat against No. 1 Minnesota on Sunday.

Jonah Dylan, Reporter


Coming into Sunday’s match against No. 1 Minnesota, it had been 322 days since Northwestern had won a conference game.

Make that 323.

The Wildcats (7-11, 0-6 Big Ten) were swept by the top-ranked Golden Gophers (13-2, 5-1 Big Ten) on Sunday in Minneapolis, 25-17, 25-21, 25-17. NU has now lost seven straight matches and has only won a single set during that span.

After going down early in the first set, the Cats battled back in the second set, leading 18-17. But Minnesota proved to be too much.

“With a team like Minnesota, you can’t afford to make any mistakes at all,” junior outside hitter Symone Abbott said. “We had to play near-perfect volleyball to have a chance of beating them, and we didn’t.”

Abbott finished with nine kills, her second consecutive game without double-digit kills after her 26-match double-digit kill streak was snapped Wednesday against Illinois. NU finished with a .172 hitting percentage, while the Golden Gophers finished with .322, and junior middle blocker Gabrielle Hazen said Abbott’s difficulties hurt the offense.

“We do rely on Symone a lot,” Hazen said. “If they can slow her down, it’s hard for our offense to get going.”

Coach Shane Davis said he liked the balance his team found, spreading the ball around to a variety of hitters. Abbott had 42 attempts, more than double that of any other hitter, but senior middle blocker Maddie Slater got 20 attempts and Hazen had 19.

“Any time you can get a middle 20 balls you’re doing a pretty good job as far as taking care of the little plays and staying in system,” Davis said. “We’ve got to make sure that we continue to establish that.”

In her second straight start at libero, senior Rafae Strobos had 10 digs. Regular starting libero Katie Kniep did not play Sunday after missing the game against the Fighting Illini with a back injury.

NU now looks ahead to a date with Michigan on Wednesday in Evanston. Even though the season has gotten off to a slow start, Hazen said there’s still optimism around the team.

“We have a lot of volleyball left this year,” Hazen said. “It definitely stings to start off so slow, but we’re definitely focusing on being positive and just having fun on the court.”

Abbott agreed and said the team plays better when they’re having fun, regardless of the outcome of the match.

“You can’t lose hope in a conference like this,” Abbott said. “Everybody’s so good that you can’t start going into games and not having confidence. You’ll get annihilated if you do that.”

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