Cats fall to No. 7 Wisconsin at home in straight sets


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Alana Walker stands at the net. The junior middle hitter finished the game with 4.5 points.

Carlos Stinson-Maas, Reporter

Northwestern failed to pick up their first conference win on Wednesday, falling in straight sets to No. 7 Wisconsin.

Following the loss at home, the Wildcats have lost 8 consecutive matches against Wisconsin dating back to 2013. The game was reminiscent of many of NU’s performances this year — the team fought hard, but eventually fell to a superior squad.

The Badgers (9-4, 5-0 Big Ten) came into the game on a four-game winning streak, while the Cats (9-8, 0-5) were on a four-game skid.

NU looked strong in the first set, taking a 20-19 lead before falling 25-23. The set featured 11 ties and 6 lead changes, but once again, the Cats failed to perform down the stretch. Coach Shane Davis said the team needs to do a better job of executing on a consistent basis.

“There’s an accountability piece that the team is sometimes good at and sometimes not so good at,” Davis said. “We just gotta be better and mindful, more determined and focused in close situations.”

Unlike previous games, Davis’ starting lineup included sophomore setter Kiara McNulty and junior opposite Danyelle Williams, both of whom have 20 or fewer sets played this season. Williams recorded six kills and McNulty pitched in with a team-high 27 assists. Davis praised McNulty’s performance in the last few games and said she earned more playing time.

“I thought she did a really good job,” Davis said. “Making plays on defense, being quick to the ball, setting really good offense and moving the ball really well.”

After a competitive first set, the Badgers dominated the second, jumping ahead 11-5 after an early 6-0 run and finishing the set strong at 25-15. Wisconsin finished the set with a hitting percentage of .419 to NU’s .129. The 15 point performance was the Cats’ second lowest-scoring set of the season.

“We definitely came out, we fought really hard,” McNulty said. “I think we partly just ran out of steam.”

Set three also went the Badgers’ way with Wisconsin leading throughout — aside from an early 1-1 tie. NU committed an abysmal 5 service errors in the 25-19 loss.

Freshman outside hitter Temi Thomas-Ailara led the way for the Cats with 17 kills and four total blocks. While Wisconsin had five players with eight or more kills, Thomas-Ailara had more kills than the rest of her team combined.

Thomas-Ailara said she thought the team had some great moments despite the loss.

“We can keep up with the best teams in the conference,” Thomas-Ailara said. “When our defense is good, it’s really good, and we can get digs on hard hits. Once everything comes together, we can be great.”

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