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Volleyball: Northwestern looks for upset in weekend road trip

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Taylor Tashima hits the ball. The senior setter and the Wildcats will face No. 7 Nebraska and Iowa this weekend.

Taylor Tashima hits the ball. The senior setter and the Wildcats will face No. 7 Nebraska and Iowa this weekend.

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Taylor Tashima hits the ball. The senior setter and the Wildcats will face No. 7 Nebraska and Iowa this weekend.

Cassidy Jackson, Reporter

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Volleyball


Last weekend was full of “regret” for Northwestern, as the Wildcats lost to Maryland in a heartbreaker and failed to put up a good fight against Ohio State.

This weekend, NU (12-8, 2-6 Big Ten) wants to leave it all on the court against No. 7 Nebraska (14-4, 7-1) and Iowa (14-7, 3-5). The Cats will head west Friday to take on the Cornhuskers, who have proven to be a mighty team this year, sitting second in the Big Ten. Saturday, NU will go head-to-head with the Hawkeyes.

Sophomore libero Sarah Johnson said last weekend’s losses were a wake-up call for the team and forced the players to look hard at their individual weaknesses.

“We haven’t focused as much on the scout per se, like exactly what Nebraska and Iowa does,” Johnson said. “It’s been more focusing on ourselves. For now, we need to focus on our team before we can focus on any other team.”

With both Nebraska and Iowa sitting ahead of NU in the conference standings, the Cats are guaranteed to be the weekend’s underdog, especially against the Cornhuskers.

Last season, the Cats took a hard 25-20, 25-11, 25-20 loss against then-No. 1 Nebraska. Senior middle blocker Gabrielle Hazen said the Cornhuskers are consistent, but NU could target the Nebraska back row. If the Cats can put up a good fight, they’d be happy win or lose, she said.

Having NU’s offense firing on all cylinders could be an asset when going against the Cornhuskers. Senior outside hitter Symone Abbott currently leads the Big Ten with 4.40 kills per set and has been one of the Cats’ go-tos on offense. Freshman outside hitter Nia Robinson has also been a major player on offense, sitting at 10th in the conference with an average of 3.43 kills per set.

Looking toward the matchup with Nebraska, Hazen said the beauty of going against such a highly-ranked team is that all pressure is off NU and on the Cornhuskers.

“We have nothing to lose,” Hazen said. “If we upset them, it’s Nebraska that looks bad. It’s not us. If they beat us, it’s like, ‘OK, well that’s what’s expected to happen.’ Knowing that the pressure is on them, we can just go in … and hopefully come out with the W.”

Coach Shane Davis said the following match against Iowa will test whether the Cats have learned how to bounce back.

Last season, NU and the Hawkeyes faced off twice, and the Cats lost both times. But two seasons ago, NU beat Iowa twice, so this season’s face off could be a toss up. Davis said he knows Iowa will be competition for the team.

“They play with a lot of confidence,” Davis said. “They have fun out there. I think they’re just a close-knit team, and we’ve got to be able to try to break that down and put them in a tough spot.”

Overall, Hazen said the team is hoping to prove why they deserve to be in the Big Ten.

“I don’t think our record shows what we’re capable of,” Hazen said. “There’s just been missed opportunities that we didn’t capitalize on, so that makes us look like we’re not as good as a team in the Big Ten. We definitely got to come out with some Ws to prove that.”

Email: cassidyjackson2021@u.northwestern.edu

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