Volleyball: Northwestern suffers consecutive losses to top-ranked Ohio State and Wisconsin


Tyler Keim/The Daily Northwestern

Charlotte Cronister, Temi Thomas-Ailara, Leilani Dodson and Alexa Rousseau (left to right) prepare to return a serve in Northwestern’s Saturday home game against Ohio State. The Wildcats lost to the No. 10 Buckeyes in four sets, followed by another loss to No. 4 Wisconsin on Sunday.

Saul Pink, Reporter


Northwestern’s back-to-back losses this weekend followed the same formula: the Wildcats edged out their top-10 opponents in the first set, but dropped the next three.

NU (11-16, 6-10 Big Ten) fell to No. 10 Ohio State (21-5, 11-5 Big Ten) in four sets on Saturday, then traveled to Madison, Wisc. where they lost to No. 4 Wisconsin (21-3, 13-3) on Sunday afternoon. 

After a 17-minute delay due to an accidental fire alarm at Welsh-Ryan Arena, junior libero Charlotte Cronister delivered back-to-back aces, sparking an 8-1 run for the Cats in the middle of the first set against the Buckeyes. NU won the set 25-21.

“We really wanted to go out there strong and show them what we had,” Cronister said. “And I think we did that really well.”

The Cats put up a fight in the second set, evening the score against the Buckeyes 12 times, but ultimately fell 25-23. From there, NU couldn’t keep up. The Cats dropped the third and fourth sets 25-19 and 25-16, respectively.

Junior outside hitter Temi Thomas-Ailara’s 15 kills and Cronister’s five aces were not enough to match Ohio State’s dominant front row. The Buckeyes recorded 57 kills, surpassing NU’s 47.

The Cats followed a similar script in Madison, winning a tightly contested first set by a 27-25 score. Freshman defensive specialist Ellee Stinson capped off NU’s first set victory with consecutive aces in front of 7,540 Badger fans. Cats fans filled just over 1,000 of Welsh-Ryan Arena’s 7,039 seats during Saturday’s matchup.

“It’s really fun playing in front of more people in a loud stadium,” Thomas-Ailara said. “You can either get lost in there or it can fuel your fire. For us, it fuels our fire and makes us play better.”

But Wisconsin’s 19 kills and impressive 0.621 hitting percentage shifted momentum toward the Badgers in the second set, which they handily won 25-14.

Coach Shane Davis noted the Cats’ failure to combat offensive runs in both matches contributed to their late struggles. Badgers outside hitter Jade Demps rattled off five straight serves for a 6-0 run in the second set. Another 5-0 run by Wisconsin put the Badgers up 22-16 in the decisive fourth set, which they won 25-20.

“​​These top opponents turn it up a notch sometimes,” Cronister said. “We talk a lot about sustaining and giving our all, especially later in games, because we know we’re tired but we have to mentally work through that and execute.”

NU will face Maryland (18-10, 6-10) on Friday and No. 9 Purdue (20-5, 12-4) on Sunday in their last two home games of the regular season. The Cats currently sit in 10th place in the Big Ten. 

“These were really strong teams and veteran teams that are really good and consistent,” Davis said. “We’re an improving program and we’re a younger team in comparison to our opponents, so over time it’s about maturity, decision-making and learning.”

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @saullpink

Related Stories: 

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

Volleyball: Northwestern suffers regular season sweep to Illinois, loses in four sets

Volleyball: Wildcats finding consistency in fall season after tumultuous spring