Volleyball: Northwestern prepares for road test on Wednesday against Iowa


Daily file photo by Brian Meng

Olivia Viscuso hits the ball. The junior middle blocker has played in 21 games for the Wildcats this season.

Manasa Pagadala, Reporter


It’s been a week of highs and lows for Northwestern.

After their first three-set win in conference play against Michigan State on Friday, NU followed it up with a three-set loss the next day against No. 13 Michigan.

The Wildcats (11-11, 1-9 Big Ten) experienced a span of emotions this weekend.

“I feel kind of disappointed,” sophomore middle hitter Alana Walker said after their loss against Michigan. “After coming off a really good win last night, (I was) thinking that we’d be able to get two at home. Two really big wins.”

And the Big Ten season isn’t close to being over yet.

After being in the comfort of their own home at Evanston Township High School, NU is set to hit the road again for their second game against Iowa in the Carver-Hawkeye Arena this Wednesday.

Playing against the Hawkeyes (12-9, 4-6 Big Ten) again, the Cats are feeling the pressure to notch wins in the remainder of the season.

“We’re continuing to find ways to win and get over the hump,” coach Shane Davis said. “We need to figure out a way to beat Iowa. (The) more times we try to create some good wins under our belt, that’s gonna generate some good confidence for this young team.”

In a year filled with several three-set losses, the Cats’ last game against Iowa was a refreshingly close five-set match, their first of the campaign.

Not only did NU beat its season-high for blocks with 15, but also started with an early lead thanks to sophomore outside hitter Nia Robinson’s triumphant post-injury comeback.

The season since then has been grueling; the Cats have faced eight consecutive losses and some of the lowest hitting percentages in the team’s history up until Friday’s exciting win.

Since their last brawl against NU, the Hawkeyes have had a similar season of highs and lows.

Beating No. 6 Wisconsin — one of their four Big Ten season wins— was the squad’s season highlight thus far. The game boasted one of the highest turnouts in Iowa history, with over 2,300 cheering fans as Iowa beat its first ranked team of the season.

Junior and star player Cali Hoye landed 30 kills during the game, beating the record for any Hawkeyes’ player in decades. Along with this, their sophomore setter Brie Orr, who is currently ranked fourth in the Big Ten, recorded her 2,000 assist — and is only the ninth player to reach that mark in program history.

On the other side of the ball, defensive specialist Molly Kelly currently sits first in the Big Ten with 400 digs and second in program history for 5.0 digs per set.

After another win over Rutgers, Iowa hit a low point with three consecutive losses against No. 17 Purdue, No. 3 Minnesota and a surprising three-set loss against Wisconsin this Sunday [cq].

Despite the Cats strong performance against the Hawkeyes earlier this season and the morale-boosting win against Michigan State, freshman outside hitter Abryanna Cannon admitted that the Spartans’ predominantly-freshmen team was definitely “beatable” and that the next game against Iowa requires “executing a little better.”

Saturday’s loss against Michigan was particularly tough; the overall hitting percentages were relatively low with 0.103, 0.219 and -0.036 in the first, second and third set, respectively.

Despite Iowa’s impressive players and experience against the Cats, NU still has hope approaching its upcoming game.

“It is a young group but they’re seeing more volleyball,” said coach Davis. “So they’re gaining a lot more experience by playing and they’re seeing situations a lot quicker. They’re able to put themselves in a better spot than they have been in recent years so over time, they’ll continue to get better and better.”

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