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Volleyball: Cats return home, face off against Michigan State, Michigan

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Volleyball: Cats return home, face off against Michigan State, Michigan

Northwestern huddles after a point. The Wildcats are looking for their first Big Ten win this year.

Northwestern huddles after a point. The Wildcats are looking for their first Big Ten win this year.

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Northwestern huddles after a point. The Wildcats are looking for their first Big Ten win this year.

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Northwestern huddles after a point. The Wildcats are looking for their first Big Ten win this year.

Andy Marquardt, Reporter

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Northwestern will return home this weekend to face off against Michigan State and No. 13 Michigan as they look to enter the win column in Big Ten play.

Following three straight road sweeps at the hands of No. 7 Illinois, No. 9 Wisconsin and No. 3 Minnesota, the Wildcats are looking forward to facing a Spartans team fresh off a loss to Ohio State, and a Wolverines team that first has to face the Fighting Illini on Friday.

While Michigan State (15-6, 3-5 Big Ten) and Michigan (17-2, 6-2) present difficult challenges for NU (10-10, 0-8), freshman outside hitter Abryanna Cannon says the team’s last few tough matches will help the Cats’ pursuit of victory over the Spartans and Wolverines.

“We are coming off a stretch of playing a lot of top ranked opponents, and going into a stretch of opponents with lesser rankings,” Cannon said. “We’re going to look to capitalize on our experience and come out with some wins.”

Last year, NU traveled to Ann Arbor late in the season and came away with an upset win against the Wolverines. With 11 returning players from last year’s team, the Cats are looking to build on the momentum from last year’s victory as they look to once again come out on top against Michigan.

Sophomore middle hitter Alana Walker says that last year’s victory will be fresh on NU’s mind when they square off against the Wolverines on Saturday.

“This season is progressively getting better game by game,” Walker said. “We beat Michigan last year, so beating them again will prove to us that we are still improving.”

Prior to Saturday’s matchup against Michigan, however, the Cats will play host Friday to Michigan State. While no team in the Big Ten — college volleyball’s best conference — is to be taken lightly, the Spartans are the just the second Big Ten team NU has faced this season whose conference record is below .500.

“Michigan State is a beatable team with a lot of freshman like us,” Walker said. “We match up against them well.”

Walker leads NU in blocks this season, and is third in kills behind sophomore outside hitter Nia Robinson and Cannon.

The Cats are home in Evanston this weekend for the first time since October 3. In all, NU has played 17 of their 20 matches on the road or at neutral sites. Coach Shane Davis said he is excited for his team to get the extra rest and comfort playing at home provides.

“It’s going to be nice to be able to get back into our routines, sleep in our own beds, and change the pace a bit for this group,” Davis said. “I feel good about our team and what we’ve been doing in practice this week.”

Both Cannon and Walker echoed this sentiment, with each mentioning their excitement to play in front of their families and to get a few more hours of rest to prepare.

Five of the next six matches for the Cats are against unranked opponents. Cannon says she is ready to see the work the team has put in show up in the win column.

“We deserve this,” Cannon said.

Email: andrewmarquardt2021@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @andy_marquardt

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