Volleyball: Confidence, momentum carry Northwestern to two road wins


Ella Galvin/The Daily Northwestern

Freshman outside hitter Kathryn Randorf hitting the ball in last week’s loss against Maryland. The Wildcats bounced back against the Terrapins this week, sweeping them 3-0.

Paloma Leone-Getten, Reporter

Several days made the difference between Northwestern getting swept by Maryland and Chicago’s Big Ten Team returning the favor.

The Wildcats (15-7, 4-6 Big Ten) took down the Terrapins (12-10, 3-7) in straight sets Saturday after a decisive Maryland victory just eight days prior. In another big conference battle, NU picked up its first road win of the weekend Friday against Rutgers (7-15, 1-9). 

A closely fought first set saw the teams trading points. While the Terrapins’ ever-present block persisted, the Cats’ steady passing and dynamic offense made up for it. A perfectly-timed challenge by coach Shane Davis tied the game at 19, giving NU enough momentum to take the set.

“I think last night and tonight (were) more about us being in rhythm and knowing what kind of set to expect in a lot of different situations,” Davis said. “Our attackers did a really good job of knowing what that is.”

The Cats, steady over the next two sets, split their kills between six players. Standout senior outside hitter Temi Thomas-Ailara picked up 18 for an average of six kills per set, well above her career average of 4.06. Freshman outside hitter Kathryn Randorf also had a big night, tallying 12 kills and hitting an efficient .385, while senior middle blocker Desiree Becker hit .500 on 10 attempts.

But what really set NU apart was confidence. Last week’s competition against Maryland was freshman setter Sienna Noordermeer’s first collegiate match, for which she had only a day to prepare, according to Davis. Still, Noordermeer seems to have settled in over the past week, guiding the Cats to victory against the Terrapins with 35 assists. 

Davis said she has seen Noordermeer transform into a more confident setter in just a few matches. 

“You’re just starting to see her making that shift now from, (what) I always call ‘overhand ball distributor’ to being a setter and running schemes and running plays,” Davis said. “(I’ve) really seen some good stuff there.”

Noordermeer was planning on redshirting, likely to avoid losing a year of eligibility while junior setter Alexa Rousseau, who is currently sidelined, competed with the Cats. However, for non-medical redshirting, playing just one point forfeits that option. With the timeline of Rousseau’s return to the court unclear, Noordermeer is NU’s setter for the foreseeable future. Tallying a career-high 45 assists in Friday’s win against Rutgers, she played a crucial role in both matches this weekend.

Thomas-Ailara picked up 19 kills against the Scarlet Knights, while fifth-year outside hitter Hanna Lesiak added 12, along with tying her career high of five blocks. Junior middle blocker Leilani Dodson was also part of seven of the Cats’ 13 blocks. 

“Rutgers is tough at home,” Davis said. “They play in a great arena and an arena that we’ve never been in. Losing a tough set two battle, (seeing) some good play by Rutgers (was hard), but the way we responded in sets three and four was great. It was big for us.”

Though NU dropped a close second set, it made short work of Rutgers in the third and fourth sets, winning 25-12 and 25-16, respectively. 

These road wins indicate that the Cats are headed in the right direction going into the second half of Big Ten play, where they will face five top-25 teams in the next month.

Going into a tough stretch of the season, Davis emphasized the cruciality of momentum for his team. 

“Any win on the road is a great win,” Davis said. “And (it) just feels good carrying over into next week at home against Purdue and Iowa, which are two really good teams. … So it’s just good momentum to take back with us home.”

NU looks to stay in the win column Friday against Purdue at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

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