Volleyball: Northwestern to play rival Illinois


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Alana Walker follows through on a kill. The sophomore middle hitter is third on the team in attempts this year.

Manasa Pagadala, Reporter


Starting this Saturday, Northwestern hits the road for the first of three consecutive away games with a matchup against state rivals, No. 7 Illinois.

After Wednesday’s three-set loss against No. 5 Minnesota, the team has yet to secure a Big Ten victory this season. Despite five losses — three of which were against top-20 teams — the Wildcats look to bounce back from their loss to Minnesota as they prepare for their next game against the Fighting Illini.

“We need to find a way to string those pieces together and find consistency when we’re all locked together,” junior middle blocker Olivia Viscuso said. “If we can put all that together for an entire match, we are one of the best teams out there.”

Illinois (14-2, 3-2 Big Ten) enters the contest with three Big Ten wins over then-No. 16 Purdue, Indiana and Iowa — teams NU (10-7, 0-5) has lost to previously this season. More recently, the Fighting Illini suffered a pair setbacks against defending national champion Nebraska and No. 6 Wisconsin. Despite the losses, Illinois was able to take one set against both opponents.

One of the Fighting Illini’s star players is outside hitter Jacqueline Quade. For the first time in her career, Quade is playing six rotations full-time and leads the team with 247 kills, including 22 against the Cornhuskers. Additionally, setter Jordyn Poulter holds the Big Ten lead for assists per set. Quade and Poulter have both won Big Ten weekly awards this year.

Moving forward, Viscuso said the Cats need to be better when battling adversity in the middle of play and to not leave anything on the court.

“All around, our blocking wasn’t amazing,” Viscuso said after the Minnesota match. “I think we can slow them down more. I think we can touch them up more, dig them more.”

Minnesota ended the game with seven blocks total compared to the Cats’ four, with the only solo block carried out by sophomore middle hitter Alana Walker.

Despite the recent struggles, coach Shane Davis wants to utilize the strengths of his players going forward. He said he hopes the Cats “set up” and “give more balls” to freshman outside hitter Abryanna Cannon and continue to push sophomore outside hitter Nia Robinson and Walker to “attack the court.”

Against Minnesota, Cannon had a hitting percentage of .120 with seven kills. Robinson led the team in kills, ending with a hitting percentage of .240 and 10 kills. Walker spiked four total kills, which is tied for her season low thus far. Robinson, Walker and Cannon are the top three on the team in total attempts this season.

As the Cats leave their home court this weekend, Viscuso said she hopes they can keep working hard in order to reach their full potential.

“We needed to focus on the things we did well and carry those forward,” Viscuso said. “With coverage and other things we can upgrade, we should recognize them, and make that effort for the future.”

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