Volleyball: Northwestern splits road trip matchups against No. 12 Purdue and Indiana


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Junior outside hitter Temi Thomas-Ailara aims for a hit. Thomas-Ailara registered 19 kills against Indiana on Saturday.

MaryKate Anderson, Reporter

A few minor adjustments made all the difference between Northwestern’s poor showing at Purdue and their decisive win at Indiana three days later. 

The Wildcats (10-13, 5-7 Big Ten) were swept in three sets by the then-No. 12 Boilermakers (16-5, 8-4) on Wednesday before they took down the Hoosiers (9-15, 3-9) in four sets on Saturday.  

NU could not outperform Purdue’s strong offense, losing their sets 25-16, 25-19, and 25-17.  The Cats couldn’t serve aggressively enough, and they couldn’t slow down Purdue’s outside attackers during their loss — two tactics coach Shane Davis said the team worked on before facing Indiana. 

Purdue’s outside hitters registered 33 kills against NU’s defense, a much greater number than the Hoosiers’ 21 kills against NU. Davis said he attributes this improvement to serving more effectively, forcing Indiana out of system and slowing down their outside hitters.

“It was a big step up all around from how we played against Purdue, and it was definitely a confidence booster for everyone on the court,” said junior outside hitter Temi Thomas-Ailara. 

Thomas-Ailara’s nine kills in the fourth and final set paved the way for the Cats’ 25-19 win against Indiana, sealing their victory. NU also soundly defeated the Hoosiers in the first and third sets, with scores of 25-13 and 25-10. 

By Saturday, the Cats ironed out several defensive kinks, outdigging Indiana by 10. Davis said senior opposite Ella Grbac’s strong showing was a major key to the team’s win as well. 

“We gave her a good volume of sets and she was able to execute,” Davis said. “That was a big difference for us.”

Grbac ended the night with 10 kills, matching her season-high and nearly reaching her season-highs in attempts, hitting percentage and digs. Combined with several crucial blocks against Indiana’s left side, Grbac proved herself as a fundamental part of NU’s gameplay. 

Sophomore setter Alexa Rousseau also brought the heat against Indiana, setting up kills for five different players and notching three kills herself. Sophomore middle blocker Leilani Dodson credited Rousseau with getting other middle positions involved, saying she did a “great job distributing.”

NU will return to Welsh-Ryan Arena this week to face No. 1 Wisconsin and Indiana once again. While the Badgers currently sit atop the Big Ten Conference, Davis said the Cats will play aggressively and take chances on Friday in hopes to take them down in front of some familiar faces. 

“It’s going to be nice to get in front of a home crowd again, our fans, the student section, those are huge lifts for us,” Davis said. “We’re really excited about the opportunity to compete at home.” 


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