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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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Volleyball: Northwestern defeats Michigan 3-2, finishes first half of conference play

Daily file photo by Micah Sandy
Senior middle blocker Leilani Dodson. Dodson posted 10 kills and four blocks in NU’s five-set win over Michigan.

Revenge is a dish best served cold, and it got chilly in Evanston just in time for a Saturday rematch with Northwestern’s maize and blue foe — a Michigan squad that prevailed 3-1 the last time the two teams faced.

The Wildcats (10-10, 4-6 Big Ten) took the first set but surrendered the next two to the Wolverines (3-16, 1-9 Big Ten). NU then snagged the final two tightly contested sets, avenging its loss from two weeks prior. 

Graduate student outside hitter Maddy Chinn and sophomore outside hitter Averie Hernandez led the way with 11 kills each, with Hernandez contributing a career-high four aces.

“(Hernandez) did an awesome job with her serving,” coach Shane Davis said. “She kept the pressure on and allowed us to point score.”

Hernandez wasn’t the sole underclassman with a statistically significant showing. Sophomore middle blocker Kennedy Hill contributed eight blocks and five kills, while freshman defensive specialist Gigi Navarrete tallied three aces. 

Hill said the team’s underclassmen intended to make an instant impact early in the season.

“We made a pact at the beginning of the season here,” Hill said. “We wanted to learn how to finish the game and make Northwestern a better team.”

The ‘Cats showed that improved ability to close games on Saturday, despite some mid-matchup missteps. 

After winning their first set 25-13 on a Hernandez kill, NU proceeded to drop the next two by a combined 15-point margin. Defensive lapses plagued NU, and it began to look like Michigan would record its second conference victory of the season.

Although the Wolverines outscored the ‘Cats 13-8 to begin the fourth set, NU eventually climbed back and tied the game with a Hernandez ace, forcing a Michigan timeout. Despite the pause, the ‘Cats maintained their momentum and clinched a 28-26 victory, courtesy of a Hill and Chinn joint block. 

“Set four got really, really tight,” Davis said. “We battled back and got ourselves in a position to swing that one.”

The Wolverines went ahead 5-3 at the start of the fifth set, prompting Davis to call a timeout. The pause proved effective, the ‘Cats outscored their opponents by six and secured a 3-2 match victory. 

Senior middle blocker Leilani Dodson attributed the win to NU’s “scrappy” playstyle.

“That’s something we really pride ourselves on,” Dodson said. “Our three littles, Gigi, Ellee and Drew, worked really hard all week during practice to be scrappy for us and put us in good situations.”

Dodson tallied 10 kills and four blocks, adding to her sizable team-lead in blocks. 

This match marked the end of NU’s first half of conference play. The ‘Cats will head to Columbus to take on Ohio State (7-12, 4-6 Big Ten) on Wednesday. 

“Coming back like this and having both the bench and the people on the court coming back and having the fortitude to win is something huge for us,” Hill said. “I think we are going to carry this into the next game for sure.”

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