Volleyball: Wildcats fall to No. 9 Spartans in straight sets


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Symone Abbott goes up for a kill. The senior outside hitter and the Wildcats fell 3-0 to No. 9 Michigan State on Saturday.

Peter Warren, Reporter


For the second Saturday in a row, Northwestern faced off against a team ranked No. 9 in the country.

And just like two Saturdays ago in Madison, the Wildcats (13-13, 3-11 Big Ten) fell to their highly ranked opponent.

NU lost to No. 9 Michigan State (17-6, 10-4) in three sets, 25-13, 25-19, 25-18. Though the Spartans were the better team, the Cats displayed a determination not usually seen in recent competitive matches.

“We fought the whole way through,” senior outside hitter Symone Abbott said. “We have a history of getting down and then throwing in the towel, but we fought the whole time.”

Through the game, NU struggled to return serve against Michigan State, which leads the Big Ten in aces per set and features three of the conference’s top five servers.

During one stretch in the first set, the Spartans went on a seven-point run behind the serving of Megan Tompkins. She notched two aces as NU struggled to cleanly receive her serves.

“Our serve receive was kind of a culprit a little bit, in terms of our Achilles heel for us tonight,” coach Shane Davis said. “We had a lineup in there that we thought would do a good job in serve receive but we just didn’t execute.”

The Spartans finished with seven aces, while the Wildcats only managed two and had four service errors.

Offensively, the Cats were much more balanced, spreading the ball out all over the court instead of setting it to the outside as they often do.

“It is always the plan but we just don’t do it a lot of the time,” Abbott said. “This time (the coaching staff) really put their foot down because if we didn’t do it, we would have for sure lost worse than we did.”

Abbott, freshman outside hitter Nia Robinson and freshman middle hitter Alana Walker all finished with at least 14 total attempts. Robinson had eight kills, but on a disappointing .040 hitting percentage.

In the third set, the Spartans came out firing with four straight points to put the Cats in a deep hole and jumped to a 11-2 lead soon after

But NU responded with a run of its own, highlighted by five straight kills from Abbott, to cut the lead to 14-12. Abbott, who is coming off a leg injury, led the team with 11 kills and a .474 hitting percentage, and tied for the team high with five digs.

“I haven’t been on the floor like I usually have because of my injury, and it just felt good to be out there,” Abbott said. “Even though we were behind, I was having fun anyway because I miss playing like I usually do.”

Following the NU run, Michigan State gradually retook control of the set and slowly finished off the Cats.

Walker, who finished the match with six kills, said if the team had come out stronger in the third set, it might have been able to swing momentum in its favor.

“I feel like we had that game so if we could just change (our start to the set) we could have done better,” Walker said.

Though Michigan State won handily, the scoreline was not fully indicative of how NU played. Davis said the Cats did many things well, but in the end, their lack of execution outweighed those positives.

“They fought hard, they played hard, they communicated pretty well,” Davis said. “I just wish it for them that they would have executed a little bit better because we would have had better results.”

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