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Volleyball: Northwestern swept by No. 4 Illinois

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Volleyball: Northwestern swept by No. 4 Illinois

Nia Robinson jumps to hit the ball. The sophomore outside hitter and the Wildcats struggled throughout the 3-0 loss.

Nia Robinson jumps to hit the ball. The sophomore outside hitter and the Wildcats struggled throughout the 3-0 loss.

(Daily file photo by Brian Meng)

Nia Robinson jumps to hit the ball. The sophomore outside hitter and the Wildcats struggled throughout the 3-0 loss.

(Daily file photo by Brian Meng)

(Daily file photo by Brian Meng)

Nia Robinson jumps to hit the ball. The sophomore outside hitter and the Wildcats struggled throughout the 3-0 loss.

Charlie Goldsmith, Sports Social Media Editor

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Volleyball


Before Northwestern’s third game at Welsh-Ryan Arena had even started, Illinois’ fan base was cheering so loudly for the Illini that it felt like they owned the place.

The Wildcats responded with 24 of their most high-energy points of the year to keep the game tied at 12 in the first set, but after that No. 4 Illinois (25-3, 14-3 Big Ten) outscored NU (15-14, 5-12) 63-29. After beating Rutgers on Saturday, outside hitter Nia Robinson said this was one the Cats needed to prove their ability to compete with top Big Ten opponents, but after the 3-0 loss coach Shane Davis said he’s looking for answers.

“We were playing perfectly, but for some reason we eventually got to that point where we were down,” he said. “It wasn’t a run where they just took control, but we started making errors and playing with a little fear for some reason and that carried over.”

After tying the game early, the Cats committed 10 errors in the rest of the first set. Davis said the skill and cohesion of the highly ranked Illini was greater than the Cats, who committed ten more errors than Illinois over the course of the match.

Three Illinois players had nine or more kills, while outside hitter Abryanna Cannon led NU with six. Against what she called one of the best organized units she’s seen, libero Emily Ehman said the Cats didn’t have a good counterpunch.

“We just weren’t really finding those connections, and we weren’t connecting or communicating very well,” Ehman said. “They were blocking, their defense is pretty incredible, so it was just honestly hard to stop at that point.”

Especially in the second and third sets, Davis said the Illini were incredible at controlling the pace of the match with their consistent returns. A positive return for NU was setter Britt Bommer, who had a steady performance in her first game back from a three-week injury.

Bommer has consistently been the team’s leading setter during the season, and she tallied 15 of NU’s 16 assists as well as a kill against the Illini.

“You can see she’s a little rusty,” Davis said. “(She’s) trying to find her way a little bit, but it was important for her to get a run tonight.”

With three games left in the regular season, the young Cats are still working to figure out how to best take advantage of the team’s strengths, according to Ehman. Also, Davis said Bommer will have to continue to compete in practice to solidify her starting position after returning from injury.

Before an upcoming matchup against Penn State, who swept NU 3-0 at home last Friday Ehman expects the team to watch more film in hopes NU can finally find the spark it’s been missing.

“We’re still finding out a lot about our team since we’re pretty young, and we’re figuring out how we deal with losses,” Ehman said. “Tonight, I just don’t think we brought it very well. We didn’t have that fight, that playing every game really hard.”

Email: charliegoldsmith2021@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @2021_Charlie

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