Volleyball: Northwestern drops pair of weekend road matches against Michigan, Michigan State


Daily file photo by Jonathan Dai

Kaitlin Tavarez reaches for a dig. The senior defensive specialist and Northwestern passed better in Saturday’s match against Michigan than in Friday’s matchup with Michigan State, but failed to win either game in a weekend sweep.

Aidan Markey, Reporter


The state of Michigan was not kind to Northwestern this weekend.

The Wildcats (8-18, 1-13 Big Ten) fell to No. 16 Michigan State in a three-set sweep Friday and dropped their match against No. 17 Michigan in four sets Saturday. NU initially gave both the Spartans (21-5, 10-4) and the Wolverines (20-6, 9-5) a heated competition, but both teams’ size and power eventually wore down the Cats.

In Friday’s contest, NU led for most of the first set. Michigan State clawed its way back, though, eventually winning, 25-21.

“We had a couple of bad plays or bad errors, and then a momentum shift happened,” coach Shane Davis said. “We never got back into the match. We really didn’t compete.”

After the first set, the Spartans dominated the Cats, who tallied a mere 27 combined points in the next two sets.

The team exhibited better overall play in Saturday’s competition against Michigan. Although the Cats fell 25-17 in the first set, they turned right around and earned a 25-17 second-set victory.

“We did a great job coming back from the Michigan State loss,” senior outside hitter Kayla Morin said. “We really dialed in.”

In that second set, junior outside hitter Symone Abbott tallied 11 kills as NU’s offense took command and tied up the match.

Though carrying momentum from that set victory, NU’s third- and fourth-set efforts fell short, and the Wolverines closed out the match, 25-19, 25-17.

Compared to Friday’s match, the Cats demonstrated offensive consistency in the contest with Michigan. Abbott led the team’s attack, which had five players earn five or more kills.

Abbott finished with 23 kills on 58 attempts. Morin added nine kills while hitting .391 on the match. Junior middle blocker Gabrielle Hazen recorded nine kills, and senior outside hitter Sofia Lavin had seven of her own.

Morin said NU’s improved offensive performance was a result of the team’s strong passing game.

“It all starts with the passing,” Morin said. “We did a good job of executing the scouting report.”

After the Spartans aced the Wildcats 11 times, NU held the Wolverines to only four service aces.

Davis said members of the team took it on themselves to produce a well-rounded performance in Saturday’s match.

“We had people step up,” Davis said. “I thought Kaitlin (Tavarez) and Sarah Johnson did a really good job with our serve-receive, which allowed us to put our attackers in better situations.”

After losing 14 of its last 15 contests, the team will now enter a four-match homestand. Two of those matches will be against Minnesota and Wisconsin, the No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the country, respectively.

For NU to avoid a demoralizing limp to the finish line, Lavin said the team’s sense of urgency will be critical.

“Right now, it’s more important than ever to put our foot on the gas,” Lavin said. “We just need to keep to supporting each other, maintain our energy and keep putting other teams in difficult situations.”

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