Volleyball: Wildcats split weekend series in Michigan


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Symone Abbott readies for a point. The senior outside hitter and the Wildcats split two weekend games against Michigan and Michigan State.

Cassidy Jackson, Reporter


Northwestern left the state of Michigan with mixed emotions.

The Wildcats (14-14, 4-12 Big Ten) kicked off their road trip on a high note with a five-set win over Michigan (17-11, 7-9) on Friday night, but failed to keep the ball rolling Saturday against No. 8 Michigan State (19-6, 12-4).

Early in Friday’s contest, NU’s fate looked bleak. The Wolverines came out with a bang, rattling off a five-point run to open the match, and later had a seven-point run in the first frame. Michigan won the set 25-13 and held all the momentum.

Coach Shane Davis said the break between the first and second sets changed the game and allowed the team to regroup.

“It was kind of funny, because after the first set, I told the team, ‘Hey, every shot that they just hit in that last set was exactly what was off the scouting report, so we need to do our job,’” Davis said. “(After that), we were just able to slow them down and then do our part on offense.”

A switch flipped and the Cats emerged hot in the second set, claiming a 6-point lead only eight points in. After finishing the second frame up 25-22, NU continued its run through the third set, ultimately winning 25-19.

But the Wolverines took control of fourth set, taking it 25-21. Freshman middle hitter Alana Walker said walking into the final frame, the team was as confident as ever.

“We typically do well in fifth sets,” Walker said. “We expected to win, and we knew what we had to do to do that. We have (the) mentality that we don’t have 25 points to turn it on. We only have 15, so we just race to five, race to eight. There’s less time for us to make mistakes.”

In the end, the Cats finished on top, taking the set 15-13.

The following night, though, NU failed to retain its momentum, falling in straight sets to the Spartans. Walker said as the game progressed, she saw the Cats’ bad habits return.

“It wasn’t the same in my opinion,” Walker said. “Us not diving for the ball, going away from the scout, and just not finding space on the court to put the ball away — I didn’t feel like we were playing for each other to better the ball at every contact.”

Against Michigan State, NU peaked in the second set, which it lost 26-24. Senior middle blocker Gabrielle Hazen said the third set — with a final score of 25-9 — didn’t show the team’s fight. In the frame, Spartans outside hitter Holly Toliver rattled off 11 points on her serve.

Despite the loss to Michigan State, Hazen said the Cats are pleased with their weekend performance and urged fans not to lose hope in NU.

“Don’t give up on the Cats,” Hazen said. “We’re improving every single day and we’re pushing these teams. … The pieces are there, we’ve just got to learn how to put them together.”

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