Volleyball: Northwestern captures win on Senior Night as season nears completion


Daily file photo by Jonathan Dai

Maddie Slater reaches for a block. The senior middle blocker and the Wildcats earned a win in their final home match of the season.

Aidan Markey, Reporter

In a season wrought with struggles, Northwestern found a storybook ending to its seniors’ careers at Welsh-Ryan.

The Wildcats (9-21, 2-16 Big Ten) conquered Maryland (11-19, 3-15) on Saturday in straight sets, 26-24, 25-22, 25-21. The win came a day after NU fell at home in four sets to No. 24 Ohio State (18-12, 8-10), 25-23, 23-25, 21-25, 21-25.

Coach Shane Davis said Saturday’s win was the perfect way for the team to close out this season’s home games.

“It was important to come out and put Welsh-Ryan to bed with a ‘W,’” Davis said. “This was a culmination of everything (the seniors) have done with their careers here.”

The Cats started Senior Night off strong with aggressive serving and a relentless attack. They cruised to an 18-11 lead, but the Terrapins fought back into the set, eventually tying the score at 22-22. NU persevered through its opponent’s rally, though, and earned the first-set win with an ace by junior outside hitter Symone Abbott.

Abbott finished with 16 kills in the match. Senior outside hitter Sofia Lavin added 13 kills while hitting .310 in her last home game.

Lavin said the feelings from the dominant Senior Night win were hard to put into words.

“It’s indescribable,” Lavin said. “It’s the best way to go out, and we couldn’t have asked for a better night in our last game here at Welsh-Ryan.”

The second and third sets were much more back-and-forth than the first. Though both teams fiercely competed, the Cats once again overwhelmed Maryland with their serving and dynamic, balanced attack.

NU had three players tally a .300 or higher hitting percentage in the match. Senior middle blocker Maddie Slater notched four kills, and senior outside hitter Kayla Morin had seven of her own.

The team’s strong defensive presence also helped it seal the sweep. The Cats had 55 digs in comparison to the Terrapins’ 43. Freshman libero Sarah Johnson earned 13 digs for NU, and senior setter Caleigh Ryan had five.

Ryan said the Cats’ strong serving allowed them to execute the rest of their game plan.

“We were really aggressive from the service line,” Ryan said. “We were able to get them out of system and then get good quality block touches.”

NU recognized six players on its senior night: Lavin, Ryan, Slater, Morin, outside hitter Rafae Strobos and sophomore libero Katie Kniep, who is retiring from volleyball due to injury.

Although the team ended its home campaign on a high note, it will travel to face No. 15 Penn State and Rutgers this upcoming weekend. The Scarlet Knights, winless in the Big Ten, might not be a daunting opponent for the Cats. But the Nittany Lions, one of volleyball’s perennial powers, decimated NU on Sept. 25.

The task against Penn State is one the Cats believe they can take on. Ryan said the team is as confident as ever heading into the last week of its season.

“We know we’re a good team, whether our record reflects that,” Ryan said. “We just want to go out and prove it to everybody else.”

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