Volleyball: Wildcats aim to take down No. 4 Wisconsin in homestand battle at Welsh-Ryan Arena


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Students cheer on Northwestern volleyball during the Wildcats’ Sept. 22 matchup against Nebraska at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

MaryKate Anderson, Reporter

Northwestern volleyball returns to Welsh-Ryan Arena this Friday with hopes of upsetting No. 4 Wisconsin in front of a large, purple-crazed crowd. 

After a series of away games against Purdue and Indiana, the Wildcats (10-13, 5-7 Big Ten) return home for the first time in nearly two weeks to take on the Badgers (18-2, 10-2) for the first time this season.

Coach Shane Davis said the fans who attend home games, especially students, are huge lifts for NU. And with the team preparing to face arguably the best team in the Big Ten, a loud fan base may be just enough fuel to pump some energy into the underdog Cats. 

“They’ve got skill, they’ve got athleticism, they’ve got size,” said Davis. “Hopefully we can handle the ball on our side of the net to allow us to have opportunities and take some risks away.”

Wisconsin is coming to Evanston after a 3-1 loss to then-No. 12 Purdue on Sunday, a squad that swept NU just four days earlier. According to Davis, the Cats look to take advantage of the Badgers’ recent loss with aggressive gameplay and some risks. 

Sophomore middle blocker Leilani Dodson said the team was feeling good after its road win against Indiana on Saturday and hoped to continue working on its defense before Friday’s matchup. 

NU’s defense has struggled against ranked opponents all season, having only been able to outdig then-No. 7 Minnesota on Oct. 2 — a game the Cats narrowly lost 3-2. That contest, also held at Welsh-Ryan Arena, could potentially offer a glimpse of the competition to come on Friday. 

One key player for NU will be junior outside hitter Temi Thomas-Ailara, who leads the team with 350 kills on the season, 114 more than the next player. Her performance in Sunday’s match against Indiana, registering nine kills in the final set of the game, makes a powerful statement before facing the Badgers. 

“I’m so excited to be at home again,” Thomas-Ailara said. “A home crowd is always so much more fun than an away crowd.”

In an attempt to fill the Welsh-Ryan seats, NU is partnering with Wildside, the official organization behind the student section.

Wildside is offering free Raising Cane’s chicken fingers and toast to the first 200 students in attendance at Friday’s game. Students will also have the opportunity to enter a raffle for a quartz watch and enjoy a live DJ.

“It’s always so fun to be at home,” said Dodson. “We have a great crowd that’s been coming out, so we’re super excited.”


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