Volleyball: Northwestern swept for sixth straight match in home loss to Michigan


Jonathan Dai/The Daily Northwestern

Symone Abbott spikes the ball. The junior outside hitter had 15 kills, but that was not enough to save Northwestern from a sixth-straight sweep.

Aidan Markey, Reporter


Northwestern is making the wrong kind of history.

The Wildcats (7-12, 0-7 Big Ten) fell at home Wednesday to No. 18 Michigan (16-3, 5-2) in yet another straight-set defeat. The loss is the sixth straight match NU has been swept, the longest such streak in more than a decade.

The final score of Wednesday’s match, though, was not indicative of the Cats’ overall competitiveness.

“In the first two sets, I thought we came out and we competed,” Coach Shane Davis said. “We were sticking to the defensive plan, and we were holding Michigan to a lower hitting percentage. We were doing great.”

NU’s initial defensive intensity helped it keep the first set close at 6-6. However, a quick run then gave the Wolverines a 12-8 lead.

Although the Cats had bright spots on the offensive side of the court, they were not able to recover from the visitor’s rally, as Michigan took the first set, 25-17.

Junior outside hitter Symone Abbott, who had 15 kills in the match, was a positive for NU’s offense, while junior middle blocker Gabrielle Hazen and senior middle blocker Maddie Slater each had five kills.

“I had a lot of one-on-ones tonight,” Abbott said. “Having (Hazen and Slater) as a threat made it easier for me to get kills.”

The Cats’ defense and serve-receive was also stronger than it had been in recent matches. Senior outside hitter Rafae Strobos led the team with 10 digs, and junior setter Taylor Tashima added nine of her own.

Tashima said NU’s strong defensive play early on helped the team establish a rhythm on the offensive side of the net.

“Our in-system percentage was a lot higher, so I was able to set the offense,” Tashima said. “I had a lot more options.”

The second set was similar to the first — although the Cats played well, they were worn down by the visitors after a run put the set out of reach. The Wolverines took the set, 25-18.

NU’s sound play came to an end in the third set. The power and length of Michigan overwhelmed the Cats, who played without sophomore libero Katie Kniep due to a back injury for the third consecutive match.

Davis said NU did not compete at the level it could have in the final set.

“In the third set, we gave up. Plain and simple,” Davis said. “We gave up, and we didn’t want to fight.”

The Wolverines had five players tally five or more kills, and the team notched a .314 hitting percentage on the match. Outside of Abbott, no Wildcat had more than five kills.

NU next faces Illinois on the road Saturday. The Fighting Illini earned a sweep at Welsh-Ryan just eight days ago.

Davis said the players have to take it upon themselves to turn their season around.

“The players have to come in and they have to work hard,” Davis said. “They have to earn it.”

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Twitter: @AidanMarkey