Volleyball: Northwestern wins two games at tournament in New York


(Daily file photo by Katie Pach) Nia Robinson attacks a ball. The sophomore outside hitter had double-digit kills in all three games of the tournament.

Peter Warren, Sports Editor


After an undefeated first weekend of the season, Northwestern displayed a more up-and-down performance at its second tournament of the season.

Utilizing a new system, the Wildcats bounced back from a tough start to finish the Ellis Rowland Memorial Tournament in Hamilton, NY with two wins and one loss against Colgate, Princeton and Stephen F. Austin.

“It was a tough weekend in terms of competitive play, the schedule and all of things that go into a tournament,” coach Shane Davis said. “We handled ourselves pretty well in that department. We just need to do a better job coming out of the gates.”

NU (5-1) began the weekend on the wrong foot, dropping its opening match with the defending Ivy League champions Princeton (3-0) in three sets. It was the first time the Cats were swept in a non-conference game since 2016.

The Tigers were successful on the attack. They finished the contest with a .352 hitting percentage and a .542 clip in the final set. NU on the other hand, committed 14 attack errors, 9 service errors and 7 receiving errors.

“We made too many errors and we didn’t make enough quality plays,” Davis said. “We just came out and didn’t execute and got beat by a better team at that point.”

The Cats responded with a clean sweep of tournament-host Colgate (2-4). Six NU players finished with hitting percentages over .300. Sophomore middle hitter Alana Walker led the team with a .900 clip after spiking nine kills in 10 attempts. Her attack percentage of .900 is the second-best in program history by a player with double-digits attempts.

The Cats continued their success on the attack the next day against Stephen F. Austin (4-2). Freshman outside hitter Abryanna Cannon, freshman outside hitter/opposite hitter Ella Grbac and sophomore outside hitter Nia Robinson all hit at least 15 kills. Robinson finished with a .560 hitting percentage while only committing one error.

Despite NU’s success on offense, they lost the first set 24-26. After that, the Cats won the next three sets, 25-21, 25-19 and 25-19. Five players had double-digit digs against the Ladyjacks, including freshman libero Michelle Lee with 13 and junior libero Sarah Johnson, who had 10 digs and four aces.

Sophomore setter Britt Bommer returned from a preseason injury and made her season debut this weekend. Bommer split time with freshman setter Kiara McNulty, who was named Big Ten Freshman of the Week for her performance at the Panther Invitational last weekend.

“With having two different setters, you need a lot more communication so it has been good to develop that during practice and seeing how it pays off during the match,” Robinson said.

Bommer and McNulty registered double-digits assists in all three matches while earning double-doubles against Stephen F. Austin. Bommer notched 24 assists and 12 digs while McNulty accumulated 23 assists and 12 digs versus the Ladyjacks.

Davis deployed a 6-2 system this weekend in order to use both setters. In a 6-2 system, two setters are used and each setter only plays in the back row. When it becomes one setter’s turn to play in the front, the setter is subbed out for an attacker and the other setter is subbed into the back line. This allows there to be three attackers on the front line at all times.

This is first time during Davis’ tenure at NU that he has run a 6-2 system. For the past two seasons, NU ran a 5-1 system with former setter Taylor Tashima playing in both the front and the back.

“We wanted to run that 6-2 system to explore that as an option,” Davis said. “We feel that it is a system we ought to continue to develop.”

Through the first two weeks of the season, the freshman class has made a big impact for the Cats. Davis said Cannon, who had 37 kills while starting all three matches, stood out in New York. Cannon is first on the team with 4.37 points per set and second in kills with 73.

In addition, freshman outside hitter Hanna Lesiak had 10 kills against Colgate and Grbac sniped 16 kills against Stephen F. Austin.

“We have a good group here of freshman and they are doing a great job of embracing the challenges of college athletics,” Robinson said.

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