Volleyball: Northwestern suffers blowout loss at No. 7 Nebraska


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Temi Thomas-Ailara prepares to receive a serve. The freshman outside hitter returned after missing the last couple of games.

Carlos Stinson-Maas, Reporter


Northwestern fell in straight sets to No. 7 Nebraska for the second time this season when the teams met in Lincoln, Nebraska on Wednesday.

The Wildcats have now dropped 11 straight matches to the Cornhuskers (19-3, 11-2 Big Ten), last winning a set in 2013. With the loss, NU (10-15, 1-12) has lost all 21 sets against ranked opponents.

In the last matchup on September 28th, the Cats battled against Nebraska after getting off to a poor start. They lost the first two sets, allowing Nebraska to take advantage of their mistakes early. But in the third and final set, NU showed resilience, playing the Cornhuskers hard before falling in the final set 30-28.

Unfortunately, the second matchup wasn’t competitive. Nebraska led the entirety of the first set, winning 25-18. They finished the set with a hit percentage of .229, compared to .000 for the Cats.

NU’s offensive performance in the second set was even worse. The Cats opened the second set with four consecutive attack errors, and never erased the deficit. The Cornhuskers scorched the Cats for the rest of the set, handing NU its worst set loss of the season at 25-7.

The second set was a statistical nightmare for the Cats, as they finished with a -.129 hit percentage and only four total kills. On the season, freshman outside hitter Temi Thomas-Ailara alone is averaging over four kills per set.

NU took its first lead of the match in set three after back-to-back attack errors from Nebraska put the Cats ahead 5-3. The Cornhuskers rebounded quickly, however, breaking off a 9-0 run and maintaining their lead, eventually winning 25-18 to clinch the sweep.

Overall, NU had arguably its worst performance of the season. With the exception of graduate setter Payton Chang, who recorded only one kill, no players had a positive hit percentage for the Cats. In other words, all but one player had as many or more errors than kills.

Thomas-Ailara did return from injury, starting her first game since Oct. 27. She finished with five kills, good for second most on the team — however, she broke her streak of 19 straight games with double-digit kills. Junior outside hitter Nia Robinson led the team with six kills, and freshman middle blocker Desiree Becker added a team-high six total blocks.

With Wednesday’s win, Nebraska moves to 11-2 in the conference, and looks ahead to the NCAA tournament as a potential top seed — they’ve remained in the top 10 for the entirety of the season.

NU, on the other hand, is virtually eliminated from tournament contention, having already clinched a losing conference record and failing to produce against both ranked and unranked Big Ten foes.

“We’ve struggled improving the play as it goes on,” coach Shane Davis said. “Maybe we’re not working as hard as we need to.”

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