Volleyball: Northwestern drops conference opener at Purdue


Daily file photo by Jonathan Dai

Taylor Tashima serves the ball. The senior setter tallied 29 assists in Northwestern’s loss to No. 13 Purdue.

Joseph Wilkinson, Assistant Sports Editor


After a promising nonconference season, hopes were higher than usual for Northwestern heading into Wednesday’s match at No. 13 Purdue.

Those hopes, however, were tempered following a comfortable 3-0 loss to the Boilermakers. The Wildcats, while disappointed with the result, were not discouraged by the 25-18, 25-20, 25-18 Purdue victory.

“They played extremely well,” senior outside hitter Symone Abbott said. “Their best hitters were super on tonight and had some amazing swings. I personally think we played well, but it just wasn’t enough to beat such a dynamic and big team.”

NU (10-3, 0-1 Big Ten) struggled to stop Purdue outside hitter Danielle Cuttino throughout the night, but Cuttino finished with 16 kills on an impressive .345 hitting percentage.

The Boilermakers (11-1, 1-0) entered the match ranked with the nation’s second-highest hitting percentage at .353, and they hit an absurd .420 in the conference opener.

“It was a little bit different each set,” coach Shane Davis said. “Purdue just stayed really consistent throughout the entire match, especially after 18 points. After 18 points they were really good.”

The Cats and Boilermakers split the opening 12 points of the first set, but a 6-0 serving run by Purdue’s Sherridan Atkinson gave the hosts a 12-6 lead. NU clawed the deficit back to 13-11, but Purdue pulled away to cruise to a 25-18 set win.

Senior blocker Gabrielle Hazen and freshman outside hitter Nia Robinson led the team in kills in the first set with four apiece, and Abbott added three of her own. However, the team only hit .132 in the set.

“From zero-zero, we fought all the way,” Davis said. “We didn’t necessarily execute the best at all times, and that was kind of the dagger at some moments when we didn’t execute.”

The second set was much cleaner offensively for the Cats, who hit .304 as Hazen led the way with five kills. Defensively, however, NU struggled to stop the relentless Purdue attack.

The Boilermakers hit an impressive .476 in the second set, despite only two kills from Cuttino. Instead, it was Atkinson making the difference with five kills of her own to lead the hosts, and the Cats struggled to keep pace.

“When it came to our offense going up against their offense, they were bigger and they shut us down a couple of times,” Abbott said. “We got them out of their system, but they still put high balls up to their best hitters and they could still find a way to get the ball down in difficult situations.”

The final set was tight throughout, as a kill by Robinson cut Purdue’s lead to 19-18 late in the set. After that, however, things went downhill as the hosts reeled off six straight points to clinch the match.

Overall, Abbott led the way for the Cats with 11 kills, six of which came in the final set. Senior setter Taylor Tashima led NU in assists once again, setting up 29 of the team’s 34 kills.

Despite the loss, the Cats still walked away encouraged by their performance and the progress they’ve made as a team this season.

“In my opinion that’s the best we’ve played at Purdue during my time here,” Tashima said. “I’m really excited to see what the future holds for our team.”

Email: josephwilkinson2019@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @joe_f_wilkinson