Volleyball: Northwestern earns clean sweep of Rutgers on opening weekend


Joshua Hoffman/Daily Senior Staffer

Abryanna Cannon lines up for a spike while matched up against Rutgers. On Friday, the sophomore outside hitter brought home a game-high 13 digs.

Yunsik Jeong, Reporter


Northwestern won both matches this weekend at Welsh-Ryan Arena, beating Rutgers in straight sets on consecutive nights.

On Friday, the Wildcats (2-0) defeated the Scarlet Knights (0-2) handily, not allowing Rutgers to score more than 20 points on any set. Then on Saturday, Northwestern successfully replicated their performance en route to a clean sweep of their opening weekend opponent.

On Friday, senior middle hitter Alana Walker led the way in hitting percentage at 52.9 percent, posting 11 kills and 3 blocks while sophomore outside hitter Abryanna Cannon added a game-high 13 digs.

Rutgers led only twice all night. After the Scarlet Knights went up 0-3 to begin the game’s second set, NU responded with a pair of kills from Cannon and sophomore middle blocker Desiree Becker, putting the Cats back up 4-3.

The second set remained close with Rutgers leading 10-9, until a 7-1 NU run put the visitors out of the running as the Cats took the 2-0 set lead.

NU displayed incredible control and consistency on Friday, committing only 8 errors to Rutgers’ 19.

“I think we did a pretty good job of controlling the ball, whether that is our receiving or serving, which allowed our offense to stay in pretty decent rhythm,” coach Shane Davis said.

On Saturday, Northwestern won again in straight sets, thanks in part to impressive defensive performances from junior libero Megan Miller and setter Kiara McNulty, who compiled 13 and 11 digs, respectively.

On the attacking end, NU was led by star sophomore outside hitter Temi Thomas-Ailara, who posted 16 kills while Cannon followed with 14 additional kills and 8 digs.

After winning the first two sets by 11 and 10 points, the Cats found themselves tied 20-20 in set three. Even though the momentum was on the Scarlet Knights’ side at this point, having come back from a 13-18 deficit, NU remained calm.

An attacking error for Rutgers gave the Cats a lead, and a kill from Cannon followed by a block from Thomas-Ailara and Walker put Northwestern up 23-20. The Cats won the final set 25-21, sweeping the Scarlet Knights by winning all six sets.

Thomas-Ailara is in the midst of a memorable beginning to her sophomore campaign. She’s already racked up 29 kills and has continuously improved other aspects of her game.

“She’s worked hard at it, has been watching a lot of film, and just working on her overall game, a lot of stuff when she’s not touching the ball. I expect her to keep growing and continue to be a go-to attacker for us,” said Davis, when asked about the star sophomore’s improvement.

The Cats will travel to Lincoln to play the University of Nebraska (2-0) for another two-game series beginning on Friday. The Cornhuskers were ranked #5 in the preseason AVCA poll and are coming off a sweep of their own in Bloomington.

“Great volleyball program, great team, great players,” said Davis when asked about the Nebraska matchup. “We have great players too. We’re excited to see our growth on the court, excited to battle Nebraska and looking forward to the challenge.”

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