Volleyball: Northwestern drops matches against Maryland, Nebraska


Ella Galvin/The Daily Northwestern

Senior middle blocker Desiree Becker follows through after hitting the ball. Northwestern fell to both Maryland and Nebraska this weekend.

Northwestern couldn’t maintain momentum this weekend.

The Wildcats were seemingly stymied at every turn — first by Maryland’s powerful block and then by Nebraska’s well-rounded roster. 

NU (13-7, 2-6 Big Ten) struggled to hold on against conference foes Maryland (12-8, 3-5) and No. 3 Nebraska (16-1, 8-0) on Friday and Sunday, respectively. The Cats lost both games in straight sets, and now ride a three-game losing streak. 

“We could never make that next-level play,” coach Shane Davis said of the Cats’ loss to Maryland. “We put them into tough situations, and they found ways to get out of it. We couldn’t catch a break on anything.” 

NU scored the first point of the first set on Friday, but the Terrapins quickly responded. It was a back and forth affair for most of the set, with the Cats and Maryland trading blows. Tensions heightened toward the end, as multiple timeouts were called and the Terrapins scored six straight points to take a 25-22 victory. 

The momentum slowly shifted in the second set. The Terrapins jumped out to a five-point lead, but NU came clawing back. As the end of the set neared, the Cats managed to remain within a point or two of Maryland. But their efforts weren’t enough to pull out a win, as they fell by a 25-22 margin. 

NU’s struggles partially stemmed from the strength of Maryland’s block. Their unit ranks No.1 in the country in blocks per set, which Davis said forced NU to pay for any bad swings. But it was beneficial for the team’s improvement, he said. 

Fifth year outside hitter Hanna Lesiak said the Terrapins’ strong play made it clear that NU should be more intentional with its hits.

“They predicted where we were going,” Lesiak said. “When our passing did break down, we really only had a few options.”

By the third set, the Cats couldn’t keep up. Maryland took a commanding lead midway through the period, paving the way to a lopsided, 25-16 NU loss. At that point, Davis said the Terrapins had “wind at their sails” while the Cats struggled to build momentum. 



NU started Sunday’s first set holding the lead for a few points before narrowly falling 23-25. Junior middle blocker Leilani Dodson looked dominant to start the match, tallying 4 kills. As a team, the Cats hit a fairly efficient .283, amidst numerous long rallies.

That drive quickly fell apart in the second and third sets, with NU failing to reach more than 19 points in either set. The Huskers, demonstrating their depth, split their kills between six athletes, with three reaching nine kills.

The Cats’ struggles were intensified by the absence of junior setter Alexa Rousseau, who Davis said would be out for the foreseeable future. Redshirt first year setter Sienna Noordermeer stepped up in a big way, tallying 30 assists against Maryland and 31 against Nebraska.

“We weren’t counting on (Noordermeer) playing, so we put her in a tough spot, and we’re excited for it. She’s been doing really well in practice,” Davis said.

Adding to NU’s hardships, Thomas-Ailara’s lack of productivity played a sizable role in both losses, as Maryland and Nebraska effectively shut her down. With a career average of 0.226 kills per set, she was able to put up .028 against the Terrapins and .162 against the Huskers, finishing with two of her lowest totals all season: 10 and 8 kills, respectively. 

Looking forward, the Cats hope to bounce back from the weekend’s losses against Rutgers this Friday in New Jersey. 

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Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @charvarnes11

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