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Volleyball: Northwestern ready for packed conference weekend

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Taylor Tashima sets the ball. The senior setter and the Wildcats will face Maryland and Ohio state over the weekend.

Taylor Tashima sets the ball. The senior setter and the Wildcats will face Maryland and Ohio state over the weekend.

(Daily file photo by Katie Pach)

(Daily file photo by Katie Pach)

Taylor Tashima sets the ball. The senior setter and the Wildcats will face Maryland and Ohio state over the weekend.

Cassidy Jackson, Reporter

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Over its past five matches, Northwestern has struggled to stay consistent.

After going 2-3 during a stretch that included games against ranked opponents, the Wildcats (12-6, 2-4 Big Ten) will again face stiff competition this weekend. NU draws Maryland (13-5, 2-4) on Friday, followed by a battle against Ohio State (10-7, 3-3) on Saturday.

Sophomore libero Sarah Johnson said the team wishes it was more consistent, but the competitive nature of the Big Ten makes that practically impossible. Johnson said the team would be content winning one match this weekend.

“If we can get that win against Maryland and then fight our butts off for that win against Ohio State, (we would be happy),” Johnson said. “We’re playing some really good teams, so we know we’re going to get a few losses.”

The Cats open the weekend against the Terrapins, a team that joined the Big Ten in 2014.

Coach Shane Davis said Maryland poses a serious threat after beating Southern California earlier this season. Nonetheless, he said he predicts the match against the Terrapins to be tight.

“Maryland, first off, is a younger team, but they play some aggressive volleyball,” Davis said. “They jump serve a lot. They swing on a system really well. They’re a team that fights. I think that team for us is going to be a great battle, and it’s gonna go a long stretch.”

Following their showdown against Maryland, the Cats will take on the Buckeyes, who rank seventh in the conference.

In the Big Ten, the Buckeyes rank seventh in kills with just under 14 per set, while NU sits No. 11 with 13.8 kills per set. Senior setter Taylor Tashima said Ohio State is a well-rounded team, so the Cats’ offense needs to play at an elite level to contend.

“Ohio State is a very athletic, very crafty team, so … just having our offense firing (and) just having everyone going (is important),” Tashima said. “As long as the ball’s up in the air, I can get to it and put one of our hitters in a good spot.”

This weekend, NU will look for key contributions from its outside hitters, senior Symone Abbott and freshman Nia Robinson. Abbott currently sits second in the Big Ten in kills with 4.40 per set, and Robinson has also shown promise.

Johnson said the team needs to focus on staying in the moment in addition to boosting its attack.

“Our motto is ‘we are here,’ so we’re trying to live in the moment every single time (we play),” Johnson said. “When we play Maryland on Friday, we’re not focusing on our match against Ohio State. We’re going to stay in the moment.”

A previous version of this story misstated when Northwestern plays Ohio State. The Wildcats face the Buckeyes on Saturday. The Daily regrets the error.

Email: cassidyjackson2021@u.northwestern.edu

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