Volleyball: Northwestern looks ahead to its first two matches in Welsh-Ryan Arena


Daily file photo by Brian Meng

Abryanna Cannon, Michelle Lee and Sarah Johnson wait for the ball. The Wildcats will look to continue their winning ways.

Andrew Golden, Assistant Sports Editor


After playing its last 16 “home” games in Beardsley Gym and McGrath-Phillips Arena, Northwestern (14-12, 4-10 Big Ten) will finally play its first game in their brand new gym this weekend.

The Wildcats, who were 4-12 in their last 16 home games, will look to open their new home with two wins against No. 7 Penn State (19-5, 10-4) and Rutgers (6-21, 0-14). On Friday, NU will play the first of two back-to-back games at home against a Nittany Lion team that has lost just five games this season.

Fortunately for the Wildcats, they are playing some of their best volleyball of the season. Despite losing to Maryland 3-1 last Friday, NU bounced back to beat Ohio State on the road, for the second time this season, to finish the road trip with a 1-1 record.

The Cats finished the game with a .255 hitting percentage, their sixth-highest percentage all season. In addition, freshman outside hitters Abryanna Cannon and Ella Grbac, sophomore outside hitter Nia Robinson and sophomore middle hitter Alana Walker all finished with more than 10 points.NU has recorded its three highest hitting percentages in conference in three of its last four games.

In order to keep up with Penn State, the Cats will have to rely on their recent success and play one of their best games of the season. While the Nittany Lions rank fourth in the Big Ten in hitting percentage and fifth in assists, it’s their defense that keeps atop the conference standings. Penn State is second in the Big Ten with a .160 opponent hitting percentage, while getting 1,120 kills, which ranks fourth.

While facing the Nittany Lions could prove difficult for the Cats, their matchup against Rutgers should be a breeze. The Scarlet Knights have lost 14 conference games, a streak that spans almost two months. They rank second-to-last or last in the Big Ten in most statistical categories, including hitting percentage, opponent hitting percentage, assists and kills.

Regardless of the opponent, NU will look to get off to a successful start in their brand new arena.

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