Volleyball beats Iowa, loses to No. 3 Nebraska by Tim Hackett
After taking on two top-10 teams in 24 hours last weekend (and knocking off one of them in then-No. 3 Penn State), this weekend’s pair of matches didn’t get much easier for the Northwestern Wildcats (12-7, 4-4 B1G). Their schedule has been ranked the hardest in the country, and that was proven once again this weekend with a match against No. 3 Nebraska (15-2, 6-1 B1G) on Friday and unranked but resilient Iowa (10-11, 0-8 B1G) on Sunday.
The Cornhuskers quickly showed why they’re "definitely a contender for the national championship this year," as Northwestern junior Sofia Lavin put it. The 'Cats kept it close in the first set, leading 5-4, but then the 'Huskers started rolling, picking up the final point of a 25-13 set win on a handling error.
The 'Huskers picked up where they left off in set two, winning 8 of the first 10 points. The Wildcats didn't do themselves any favors, committing four service errors and allowing two service aces to Nebraska freshman Mikaela Foecke in the second set alone. The ‘Cats kept it somewhat close but finally senior Cecilia Hall slammed through the winning point to hand the Huskers a 25-19 win.
In the third set, Northwestern found a bit of a groove, led by sophomore Gabrielle Hazen in her first game back from illness, to eventually lead the match at 12-10. Neither team led by more than two points until Nebraska, on the strength of seven straight points, took a 22-15 lead. The Huskers closed out the match with the final three points, punctuated by a kill from senior Kelsey Fien to take the set 25-19 and the match 3 sets to none.
"Really it came down to the ability to pass and serve the ball tonight," said Northwestern head coach Keylor Chan on Friday. "When we were handling the ball we were right there with Nebraska. They frazzled us. They did to us what we did to Penn State."
But Chan noted that his team’s serving was greatly improved in their match against Iowa just two days later. In the first set on Sunday, Iowa led by as much as 9-4, but then Northwestern rolled off 18 of the next 21 points, including eight in a row, to take a commanding 22-12 lead. Northwestern convincingly clinched the first set 25-16 on a joint block by sophomore Symone Abbott and junior Maddie Slater.
In set two, neither side led by more than two points until the final point was scored, and Northwestern never led by more than a single point. Iowa railed off the final four points, taking the set 25-22 on a kill from senior Mikaela Gunderson.
In the third set Northwestern showcased just how dominant they can be. The Wildcats never trailed in the set, racing out to a 5-0 lead and never looking back. Leading 6-2, the ‘Cats put together another huge run, this time nine in a row, to lead 15-2. A Symone Abbott slam finally sealed the set for the Wildcats, in a 25-11 rout.
The 'Cats opened set 4 with a 6-2 run. Iowa brought the deficit to within one a few times, but never got closer. Northwestern took seven of the final ten points, and Slater sealed the deal for Northwestern with a kill to hand them a 25-20 set 4 win a 3 sets to 1 win overall.
A weekend trip to Indiana lies ahead for the Wildcats, who will face Purdue and Indiana on the road on Friday and Saturday.
Field hockey splits weekend home set against teams from Michigan by Andy Brown
On the heels of a disappointing overtime 3-2 loss last Friday to No. 9 Stanford, Northwestern field hockey (9-6, 2-3 B1G) was no doubt hoping for a momentum-swinging rebound this weekend against two Michigan-based conference opponents in No. 14 Michigan and Michigan State. While the 'Cats fell in overtime to a ranked team for a second straight game against Michigan on Friday, NU did get the bounceback win it desired in a 3-0 drubbing of the Spartans on Sunday.
In a back and forth battle between the B1G's top scoring team (Northwestern) and the B1G's best defensive team (Michigan), the Wolverines scored two goals in 30 seconds to grab a 2-1 lead in the 18th minute, but the 'Cats responded late in the first half with goals from senior Caroline Troncelliti, her second on the day, and freshman Eva van Agt to take a 3-2 lead to intermission. That was all the scoring NU was able to muster against UM's firm defensie, though, as the Wolverines equalized in the 64th minute and withstood late surges by the 'Cats to eventually sneak out of Lakeside Field victorious, 4-3, with a 94th minute game-winning goal in double overtime from senior Lauren Thomas.
On Sunday, however, the 'Cats were out to prove that they were not, in fact, going to play second fiddle to the pleasant peninsula to the East. And prove it, they did, crushing the MSU Spartans from start to finish en route to a 3-0 win. It was a low scoring battle early on, but the 'Cats got on the board with a 37th minute goal from junior Dominique Masters and never looked back. Isabel Flens, a junior, buttressed that lead twice in the second half, scoring her 14th goal of the season in the 46th minute and assisting Eva van Agt's tenth in the 67th. It was just a 3-0 lead, but since NU didn't even allow a Spartan shot attempt in the first 66 minutes of play, it may as well have been a 300-0 lead. The 'Cats coasted to victory from there, moving into a three-way tie for fourth in the B1G.
NU will travel to Columbus, Ohio, on Friday to take on the third place Ohio State Buckeyes in an attempt to draw even with them in conference play.