Volleyball: Wildcats set to face Iowa, No. 1 Nebraska to start road stretch


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Taylor Tashima sets the ball. The junior setter and the Wildcats will try to build on some rare momentum this weekend as they travel to Iowa and Nebraska.

Aidan Markey, Reporter


Just a week removed from its first Big Ten win, Northwestern is looking to do the unexpected.

The Wildcats (8-14, 1-9 Big Ten) will travel to face Iowa (15-7, 5-5) and No. 1 Nebraska (18-1, 9-1) this weekend in search of more conference victories. On Friday, NU is set to face the Hawkeyes, who previously conquered the Cats in a sweep at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Oct. 1. Saturday’s match against the unanimously top-ranked Cornhuskers could be NU’s biggest challenge all season.

Although the task is daunting, coach Shane Davis said his team is confident heading into the challenging back-to-back.

“We feel good about where we are. We’re a different team from the first time we played Iowa,” Davis said. “We’ve settled in as a group.”

The Cats took down No. 24 Purdue last Friday in a competitive, gritty contest. The team followed up that victory with a disappointing performance against Indiana on Sunday, losing in straight sets.

Senior outside hitter Sofia Lavin said NU must improve upon its faults from last weekend in order to take down a pair of strong Big Ten foes.

“Last weekend, we had a tough time following the scout that the coaches were so great to set up,” Lavin said. “We’re focusing on the small plays and the basic plays — the opportunities when the other team is letting up.”

In addition to struggles with individual matchups, the Cats had a horrendous two-game stretch at the service line last weekend, tallying 25 service errors over the weekend.

Junior middle blocker Gabrielle Hazen said NU must focus on itself and what it can control in order to ameliorate the sloppiness from the past couple of matches.

“We’re really focusing on our side of the net: taking care of the ball, getting ourselves in good situations and executing those situations,” said Hazen, who added that the Cats need to play with the same team chemistry that they did against Purdue to get another win. “We were playing together really well.”

That same chemistry is imperative to NU’s offensive attack, which has suddenly become more balanced. In both matches, the Cats had five players notch four or more kills. Lavin and junior outside hitter Symone Abbott have led this trend, combining for 40 kills over the two matches.

However, NU’s opponents are two dynamic offensive teams of their own. Nebraska is second in the Big Ten in hitting percentage at .306, and Iowa is fourth at .280. On the season, the Cats are hitting a mere .197 clip.

As the Cats start a four-game road stretch in the treacherous Big Ten, Davis said his team must be poised and ready to take a game-by-game approach to secure wins away from home.

“We had a good win against Purdue. We just need to handle (wins) better as a team,” Davis said.
“Hopefully we have a big win on Friday and know how to handle that.”

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