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The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern swept by No. 1 Wisconsin, No. 15 Penn State to open Big Ten play

Micah Sandy/Daily Senior Staffer
Northwestern volleyball huddles during Friday’s match against Wisconsin.

Welsh-Ryan Arena’s atmosphere Friday was electric, but the packed stands weren’t enough to stop Wisconsin’s decisive sweep of Northwestern. 

The No. 1 Badgers (11-0, 2-0 Big Ten) overpowered the Wildcats (6-6, 0-2 Big Ten) at every turn in front of a record crowd of 4,889 fans for NU volleyball.

“Why not start with the best team in the country, right?” head coach Shane Davis said. “Holy smokes, did it show we need to work on a few things which we thought we were pretty solid at.”

The ‘Cats started the match keeping pace with Wisconsin, following kills from outside hitters Kathryn Randorf and Julia Sangiacomo. But, the Badgers went on a seven-point run and NU dropped the first set 25-18 — the closest it would come to victory.

During the second and third sets, Davis switched up the lineup, subbing in setter Lauren Carter, a sophomore transfer from Denver. Carter recorded an assist and two blocks, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Badgers’ momentum.

“We just didn’t find anything that could work and really didn’t have any answers in terms of what we could mix up anymore,” Davis said. 

Throughout the match, the ‘Cats struggled to pass the ball, with Wisconsin acing them eight times and distributing their 41 kills between six athletes. 

Friday also marked the return of outside hitter Temi Thomas-Ailara, a 2022 All-American for NU completing her final year of eligibility as a Badger. Thomas-Ailara was uncharacteristically quiet at the net, recording a season-low four kills. 

“I think she still looks better in purple, but it was good to see her,” Davis said.

The challenges didn’t end on Friday. No. 15 Penn State (8-3, 2-0 Big Ten) swept the ‘Cats Sunday, though the team showed signs of life throughout the match. 

NU opened the first set keeping pace with the Nittany Lions, pulling ahead after kills by Randorf and transfer outside hitter Maddy Chinn. The match was tied at 11 and then at 14, but Penn State pulled ahead, taking the first set 25-18.

The second set was less eventful, with the Nittany Lions easily winning 25-15, but the third was the closest of the weekend. After starting out 2-7, the ‘Cats tied the set at eight. The score remained tight, but Penn State pulled ahead in the end, taking the third set 25-21. 

“Getting our middles the ball as much as possible is really key for us, because they score really efficiently,” Sangiacomo said.

Sangiacomo, a transfer from Santa Clara, led the team with nine kills, while middle blocker Leilani Dodson also had a productive match, posting five blocks, three aces and hitting .308.

Setter Alexa Rousseau emphasized the impact of packing Welsh-Ryan Arena as NU looks toward the rest of Big Ten play. 

“Just having all the students show out really truly means the world to us,” Rousseau said. “So we’re hoping that continues.”

The ‘Cats will look to rebound against Michigan State Friday at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

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Twitter: @pleonegetten

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