Volleyball: Cats get revenge on Rutgers, fall to Penn State


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Nia Robinson watches the ball. The junior outside hitter was honored for recording her 1,000th kill against Michigan State.

Ben Lualdi, Reporter


Northwestern split two matches this weekend at Welsh-Ryan Arena, beating Rutgers in straight sets before falling to Penn State by the same margin.

On Friday, the Cats (11-17, 2-14 Big Ten) defeated the Scarlet Knights (8-19, 2-14). Junior outside hitter Nia Robinson led the way for NU with 15 kills. The win brought the Cats out of the Big Ten cellar, in addition to avenging a five-set loss three weeks earlier.

NU star freshman outside hitter Temi Thomas-Ailara missed both matches this weekend. Thomas-Ailara was injured Oct. 27 against Rutgers but returned Nov. 6 against Nebraska and played against Michigan State Nov. 9.

Coach Shane Davis said the team thought the freshman was ready to play last week, but she’s now exercising caution.

“We wanted to give her some more time,” Davis said. “When she’s ready, we’ll put her in there.”

Against No. 8 Penn State on Sunday, the Cats had trouble early. Sophomores Kaitlyn Hord and Jonni Parker were dominant at the net and forced Davis to call two early timeouts. NU never gained momentum and fell 25-15.

“We couldn’t find a rhythm,” Davis said. “We struggled in finding any sort of groove attacking-wise.”

In the second set, the Cats fought back. After being down 17-11, NU rallied and cut the deficit to one, making the score 19-18. But after the Nittany Lions then called a timeout, the Cats fell flat, making several errors and failing to win another point, losing the set, 25-18. Robinson said the team’s mentality was at fault.

“Coming out of that timeout, we just had to be in a better mindset,” Robinson said. “Physically, we are more than capable of winning those points.”

The third set played out much like the first. Davis called two early timeouts, but neither sparked a comeback. Penn State freshman Lauren Clark closed the game with a cross-court kill, and the Nittany Lions took the third set 25-15.

As a team, the Cats recorded a .138 hitting percentage, compared to Penn State’s .396. Parker led the way for the Nittany Lions, recording 13 kills.

Robinson said she relishes the opportunity to play against teams like Penn State.

“They may have the potential to win a national championship,” Robinson said. “It’s really cool to play against them.”

While the Cats lost, Robinson shined as she recorded 12 of NU’s 27 kills and had 12.5 total points. No other Wildcat had more than six.

Before the match on Sunday afternoon against the Nittany Lions (21-4, 14-2), Robinson was honored for reaching the 1,000 kills threshold in a win against Michigan State two weeks ago. She said the moment was both rewarding and nostalgic and credited her teammates for helping her throughout her career.

When asked about Robinson breaking 1,000-kills, Davis was to the point.

“She’s a special kid,” Davis said. “She’s fun to coach and she’s tough. She gets her money’s worth on all of her swings, so she’ll have a lot more after this weekend.”

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