Volleyball: ‘Cats start to roar, winning first Big Ten game after unfortunate start to season

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Volleyball: ‘Cats start to roar, winning first Big Ten game after unfortunate start to season

Peyton Chang prepares to serve the ball. The graduate server had service aces against Michigan State.

Peyton Chang prepares to serve the ball. The graduate server had service aces against Michigan State.

Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Peyton Chang prepares to serve the ball. The graduate server had service aces against Michigan State.

Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Peyton Chang prepares to serve the ball. The graduate server had service aces against Michigan State.

Ece Agalar, Reporter

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On Friday, Northwestern started the weekend winning its first Big Ten game this season against the Michigan State Spartans. But the ‘Cats lost on Saturday, despite playing a consistent game against the University of Michigan Wolverines.

In the Wildcats’ game on Friday night, junior outside hitter Nia Robinson and sophomore outside hitter Ella Grbac had 13 and 12 kills respectively, leading the team to a straight win, 3-0. This victory was critical for the team to re-establish their confidence, especially without their star, freshman outside hitter Temi Thomas-Ailara.

NU (10-14, 1-11 Big Ten) showed that other players can contribute when given the opportunity. Coach Shane Davis praised the morale of the team.

“The team is doing a good job, battling with what we got, and we got some good people stepping up right now,” he said.

Freshman middle blocker Desiree Becker, Robinson and Grbac guided the team through the successful weekend, signaling a brighter future once Thomas-Ailara returns.

Davis also said Thomas-Ailara is not ready to return because of her health. They are waiting for “the green light” for her to be back on the court.

Powerful attacks and an efficient defense led the ‘Cats to victory. They shut down one of Michigan State’s most influential players, outside hitter Meredith Norris, and overcame the Spartans’ defense to celebrate at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

But Saturday’s game against the Wolverines was an unfortunate loss after a close-fought game. Becker shined once again with a career-high 15 kills, and Robinson followed her with 14. But the impressive stats weren’t enough for the Cats, who couldn’t efficiently execute the final set.

“We went to old habits of tentative play in set 5, which allowed Michigan to get on their roll,” Davis said.

NU dominated in the beginning of the game with an 8-3 run. But the Wolverines bounced back and eventually won the set with a score of 21-25.

Despite losing the first set, the Cats stayed consistent in the first four sets.

However, set five ended with a 15-8 victory for the Wolverines, despite Becker’s outstanding performance. The ‘Cats failed to stop the Wolverines’ outside hitter, Sydney Wetterstrom.

Still, Becker’s consistent performance in the game signaled her potential for the upcoming games throughout the second half of the Big Ten.

The freshman middle blocker from DeWitt, Michigan said her training and confidence contributed to her performance. Graduate setter Payton Chang pointed out that the first-year players of the team are exhibiting growth, making her “so excited to see what the future holds for them.”

“Consistency is kind of the main thing that we’ll be working on in the second half of the Big Ten,” Chang said. “Every game is going to be a battle and whoever can keep on making plays every single time, that’s who’s going to win at the end.”

Email: eceagalar2023@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @eceagalar

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