Aug. 30, 2014
DEKALB, Ill. -- Northwestern capped a perfect start to the season with its second straight-set victory of the day Saturday evening as it downed the Northern Illinois Huskies, 3-0 (25-20, 25-19, 25-22). The Wildcats won the NIU Invitational, its first nonconference tournament title since capturing the Yale Invitational crown in 2012.
"It may have only been the first weekend of the season, but this team took a big step in its journey over two days," said Northwestern head coach Keylor Chan. "We battled back last night against Colorado and we executed and played smart volleyball again today against Presbyterian and Northern Illinois. It's a long season and we have a long way to go, but I'm proud of how this team performed here at NIU."
Senior outside hitter Yewande Akanbi claimed MVP honors at the NIU Invitational. The Houston, Texas native averaged 3.82 kills per set at a clip of .369 in three matches. She also added six blocks for the Wildcats.
Redshirt senior middle blocker Katie Dutchman and freshman setter Taylor Tashima joined Akanbi on the All-Tournament team. Dutchman hit .500 with two kills per set and eight total blocks. Tashima averaged 10.9 assists per set and added 1.91 digs per set in her first collegiate action.
Symone Abbott averaged more than three kills per set in her first weekend of NCAA volleyball, as well, for NU. Kayla Morin did a little bit of everything with 31 total kills, 25 digs and a team-high 10 blocks.
The Wildcats got off to a fast start in the tournament finale against the host team. Northwestern sprung out to a quick 8-2 lead. The Huskies soon pulled within a point at 9-8, but the 'Cats pushed the lead all the way back up to nine points thanks in large part to seven straight kills from the trio of Abbott, Dutchman and Morin.
NIU climbed back to within four points at 19-15 and 22-19, but Northwestern pushed its way to the finish line and closed out a 25-20 victory. Akanbi buried two kills down the stretch and Maddie Slater capped a long rally on set point with a solo block on NIU's Jenna Radtke.
Dutchman and Akanbi led the way with six kills apiece in the first set, while Tashima handed out 17 assists. NU hit .350 as a team, while limiting the Huskies to a mark of .161.
Northwestern never trailed in the second set and jumped out to an early 4-1 lead after two kills from Abbott and two blocks, one from Dutchman and Morin and one from Dutchman and Abbott. Tashima later pushed her team's lead to eight at 18-10 on a kill, but an 8-2 run by the Huskies pulled them back to within a pair. NU responded with a 5-1 run of its own to close out the frame with two kills from Akanbi and another from Slater, not to mention a block from the aforementioned pair.
The Wildcats hit at an even more efficient clip in the second frame with 16 kills and only three miscues on 30 swings. After two sets five 'Cats had at least three kills apiece, while Tashima had 30 helpers and two terminations of her own.
Northern Illinois finally got out to a quick lead in the third set at 9-6. With libero Caroline Niedospial serving, Northwestern roared right back and unleashed an 8-0 run that put it in command for good at 14-9. An ace by NIU's Mackenzie Roddy got the home team within one, but Dutchman buried another two kills to spark and cap a five-point surge that put NU up 20-15. Savannah Paffen had two big kills off the bench down the stretch before Abbott buried her 11th of the match to secure a 25-22 set victory and a 3-0 match win.
Akanbi and Dutchman led the Wildcats with 12 kills each in the three-set win. Dutchman hit .647 in victory Saturday. Tashima recorded a match-high 44 assists and Niedospial added a match-best 21 digs Saturday evening.
The Wildcats will venture to the west coast next weekend when they travel to California for the San Diego Tournament. Northwestern opens the event on Friday, Sept. 5 against Cal State Fullerton before battling Brown and No. 14 San Diego the following day. The event marks a homecoming of sorts for Dutchman and Kelly Boutelle, both of whom grew up in nearby Del Mar, Calif.
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