Volleyball: Northwestern splits Iowa series, will not play next weekend due to COVID-19

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Kelsey Carroll/The Daily Northwestern

Rousseau and the Wildcats celebrate after a kill.

Yunsik Jeong, Reporter


Volleyball


Northwestern split its two-game series against Iowa this weekend in Evanston, losing the first match but coming back for a victory in the second.

The Wildcats (3-3) fought hard against the Hawkeyes (3-9) Friday, winning the third and fourth set but falling short in the final set. NU forced another five-set match on Saturday, coming out on top this time to maintain their .500 record.

Friday’s match saw five competitive sets between NU and Iowa, with the Cats leading the Hawkeyes in points, kills, assists and digs despite the loss.

In the opening set, the Cats were in position to win the set at 24-23 after a kill from star sophomore outside hitter Temi Thomas-Ailara. A service error from Thomas-Ailara, followed by an ace and a kill from Iowa, quickly shifted the momentum as the Hawkeyes took set one.

The second set was the longest of the season, with Iowa narrowly winning the set in a back-and-forth battle, 39-37.

NU won its following two sets by two and eight, forcing their first five-set game of the season. The third set ended on a 5-1 run by the Cats, and their momentum carried on into the fourth set win.

Iowa regained its confidence in the fifth set, going up 5-1 for a crucial early lead. Despite NU’s efforts to bring the set within one at 12-11, two kills and an attacking error ultimately gave the Hawkeyes the victory.

On Saturday, the Cats came out with vengeance as they took the opening set by seven but dropped their following two sets. In danger of getting swept by the Hawkeyes, NU took the fourth set to force another fifth set, coming out with the victory this time.

NU went up quickly in the opening set, scoring four straight with kills from senior outside hitter Nia Robinson and Thomas-Ailara along with a team service ace. The Cats were able to maintain their lead to take the first set, 25-18.

Neither team led by more than three in the entire second set, with Iowa winning 25-22.

In the third set, the Hawkeyes went on a 15-0 run, and only an attacking error from Iowa could stop this run. Down 17-2, freshman outside hitter Natalie Chizzo got her first career kill for NU’s third point, but the Cats lost 25-12.

The crucial fourth set began with five straight points from Northwestern, as the Cats improved their serving and transition game. Freshman setter Alexa Rousseau forced an Iowa timeout with a pair of kills to put NU up 14-9. Two straight service aces from junior libero Megan Miller gave Northwestern a seven-point lead, and the Cats took the set 25-21 to force another fifth set.

Northwestern kept a narrow lead throughout the final set, but four straight kills from Iowa put the Hawkeyes up 14-12. With the game on the line, NU prevailed with four straight points of their own as Rousseau’s service ace sealed the final set victory, 16-14.

“We were able to serve them out of (the) system and capitalize with some great transition swings for points. I thought our block and transition defense won that set five for us,” coach Shane Davis said after the game.

Thomas-Ailara led the team in kills again, accumulating 16 kills on 40 total attempts while also adding a team-high 13 digs.

Rousseau had her most impressive game yet, scoring 14 points with eight kills on .500 hitting percentage to go along with 39 assists, three service aces, five blocks and seven digs. The freshman setter led both teams in assists, aces, and blocks.

“(Alexa) shows great leadership and poise out on the floor,” Davis said. “As the season continues, we will look to her to become more consistent in her location of her sets.”

The pandemic continues to shift around the Cats’ schedule, as the team announced next week’s series against Michigan State (2-7) has been postponed due to COVID-19 concerns within the Spartans’ program.

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Twitter: @yjeong57

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