Volleyball: Northwestern loses to rival Illinois for sixth straight loss


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Northwestern huddles up. The Wildcats have not won a Big Ten game this year.

Manasa Pagadala, Reporter


Following a rough three-set sweep against Minnesota during the week, Northwestern entered its matchup with No. 7 Illinois on Saturday with an altered lineup.

Despite their attempts, however, the Cats fell to the Fighting Illini, 3-0, extending its conference losing streak to five games.

“I think as a team we’ve definitely improved since the last game,” sophomore outside hitter Nia Robinson said. “We showed a new lineup and overall, we’re just trying to find a good lineup that works. We had players shifted to the right side and then shifted to the left for blocking changes which was a good approach.”

After a back-and-forth start, Illinois started to gain control when the set was tied at seven. The Fighting Illini gained possession of the ball after an attack error and immediately upped their attacking game with four consecutive kills from different players. Star hitter Jacqueline Quade single-handedly pushed Illinois to a 17-10 lead with four consecutive kills.

“We did not do a great job with digging and passing,” coach Shane Davis said. “(Illinois) had a really athletic setter and they blocked fast and high. They were able to do a really great job with the tempo.”

Strong blocking from the Fighting Illini’s middle blocker Ali Bastianelli eventually allowed them to wrap up the first set relatively quickly at 25-13 and carry the momentum over to the next two sets.

But the Cats put up a stronger fight in the second set, finishing with 11 kills. NU was able to gain possession of the ball throughout the game and had a 0.250 hitting percentage overall.

“In general, our attackers got in a position to get good swings,” Davis said. “We continued to grow and mature and did a good job putting up a good fight, even when we were in okay situations. We definitely had more opportunities and chances to score.”

Sophomore setter Britt Bommer shined and paced the stat sheet with nine assists in the second set and nineteen overall. Robinson, freshman outside hitter Abryanna Cannon and sophomore middle hitter Alana Walker led the team with kills, but it was not enough as they lost the second set, 25-17.

After a stronger performance in the second set, the Cats attempted to mirror their performance in the third, yet struggled to stay consistent. With 12 total errors in the set, NU compiled its lowest hitting percentage in the season thus far. The Cats finished with 31 attack attempts and just 6 kills.

“Illinois is a really good team,” Cannon said. “We were hammering a lot of balls and they were just digging and sending them back. We need improvement as far as attacking goes.”

NU’s offensive inconsistency compared to the Fighting Illini’s strong blocking and digging led to a 25-13 final set for NU.

Although the game was their second three-set loss this season, Cannon took the game in stride and set the tone for how the Cats plan to approach the next game.

“We’ve been going on a stretch of playing high-ranked teams,” Cannon said. “Honestly, we’re the underdogs, so we actually have nothing to lose. The pressure’s on them. We just want to go in there and play our hearts out.”

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