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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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Volleyball: Northwestern upsets No. 17 Purdue, takes Michigan State to five sets

Daily file photo by Micah Sandy
Northwestern graduate student outside hitter Julia Sangiacomo and senior middle blocker Leilani Dodson jumping to block the ball in a match earlier this season. Sangiacomo recorded a career-high 33 kills on Sunday.

After No. 17 Purdue decisively handled Northwestern in the first half of Sunday’s match, a loss seemed inevitable.

But from the first serve of the third set, the Wildcats (7-7, 1-3 Big Ten) attacked, keeping pace with the Boilermakers (8-5, 2-2 Big Ten) and ending the match with an upset win. 

“It was a huge team effort and (there were) good contributions all around,” coach Shane Davis said. 

The first set began with NU hanging tight. With the match tied at 11, Purdue aced the ‘Cats, leading to a 7-0 run for the Boilermakers and eventually a set win. In the second set, Purdue pulled ahead quickly and didn’t look back, winning the set 25-15. 

But things began to turn around in the third set for Davis and company. The ‘Cats held tough with the Boilermakers, and with the set tied at 11, NU went on a five-point run. Purdue came back to tie the score 12 times before the ‘Cats won 27-25, thanks to graduate outside hitter Julia Sangiacomo’s eight kills.

“I think at some point — it might have been the end of the third set — Julia Sangiacomo comes up to me and says, ‘I can play all the way around,’” Davis said. “She’s been nursing an injury and coming back, and so if she wouldn’t have said that, I don’t know if we’d have made that adjustment just from a health standpoint.” 

Led by Sangiacomo, NU took control of the game in the fourth set. Sophomore outside hitter Averie Hernandez and senior middle blocker Leilani Dodson contributed three kills each, adding to their match totals of 13 and nine, respectively. Aided by several Boilermaker errors, the ‘Cats won the set easily, 25-11.

NU was forced to play catch-up in the fifth after Purdue got off to an early lead. With an unstoppable Sangiacomo on the court, however, the ‘Cats tied the game at 11. A block and two more kills from Sangiacomo brought NU within one, allowing Hernandez to deliver the winning kill. 

Senior setter Alexa Rousseau recorded a double-double with 46 assists and 16 digs, setting up the majority of Sangiacomo’s career-high 33 kills.

“She has a big presence but allows everyone else to also be good and help one another and be balanced,” Davis said. 

This upset win came after a five-set loss to Michigan State on Friday. The ‘Cats fell to the Spartans (11-4, 3-1 Big Ten) in an almost three-hour game.

The match began with NU and Michigan State trading points. The ‘Cats pulled ahead after a couple of offensive moves from Rousseau ― who recorded five kills alongside another double-double during the match. NU stayed in control for the rest of the set despite some service errors, winning 25-21.

“Something that we’ve got to do is improve on second and third serves,” Davis said. “We missed a lot of serves that killed our own runs.”

Set two remained close until Michigan State’s seven-point run, allowing it to pull ahead on kills from its standout outside hitter Taylah Holdem and attack errors by the ‘Cats. This momentum allowed the Spartans to win the set 25-20.

The third set was a battle featuring nine lead changes, 19 tied scores and a successful challenge on both sides of the net. But, with the set tied at 25, Michigan State pulled out a kill and an ace to win.

The ‘Cats rebounded in the fourth set, with Hernandez notching six kills, adding to her career-high 15-kill performance Friday. Kills from Sangiacomo, alongside four service errors from the Spartans, helped NU take the set 25-23.

“It was really nice to feel the trust from my teammates,” Hernandez said. “I feel like having this first opportunity to be able to do that, I just want to keep rolling.” 

Set five began with a bang, as sophomore middle blocker Kennedy Hill recorded a solo block on the first point, one of her nine on Friday. However, the ‘Cats soon fell behind 7-13, and all seemed lost. 

NU immediately went on a six-point run to tie the score at 13, helped along by kills from Hernandez and blocks by Hill and outside hitter Maddy Chinn. The ‘Cats seemed unstoppable until a block error and a bad set ended the match, with Michigan State winning the fifth set 15-13.

“I think we battled really well. We competed really well,” Rousseau said. “I think we had all week to practice what we wanted to come out and do against Michigan State, and I think for the most part, we executed that really well.”

NU will look to keep the momentum going against Michigan and Michigan State next weekend.

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