Aug. 31, 2012
Site: Las Cruces, N.M. (Pan American Center)
Score: Northwestern 3, Drake 0
Records: NU (3-0, 0-0 Big Ten), Drake (0-4, 0-0 Missouri Valley)
Next NU Event: Sept. 1 -- vs. Cincinnati (Pan American Center), 11 a.m. CT; at New Mexico State (Pan American Center), 8 p.m. CT
LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- Northwestern found itself in a nail-biting first set for the third straight match Friday, but once again the Wildcats found a way to overcome their early struggles to knock off the Drake Bulldogs, 3-0 (27-25, 25-16, 25-16).
After surviving the first set, 27-25, NU won with relative ease in sets two and three by identical scores of 25-16 to claim the first match of the La Quinta Invitational hosted by New Mexico State.
The two teams were evenly matched at the onset of the match. Drake began to seize the momentum as it built up its largest lead of the set, 18-14, which prompted NU head coach Keylor Chan to burn his second timeout of the day. The stoppage had a positive effect for the Wildcats as they rallied to pull within, trailing 19-18.
|[ Northwestern head coach Keylor Chan]|
Moments later the Bulldogs led 23-21, but Northwestern would not be turned away. Back-to-back kills from Stephanie Holthus and Yewande Akanbi tied the set. Following a Drake timeout, a powerful block by Akanbi and Katie Dutchman gave the 'Cats the lead once again, 24-23. Soon one of the newest Wildcats, Savannah Paffen, unknotted a tie score to put her team ahead, 26-25, and an attacking error on the Bulldogs ended the first set in Northwestern's favor, 27-25.
The victory in set No. 1 against Drake marked the first time in three matches this season that Northwestern took the opening frame from its opponent. The Wildcats dropped both first sets during the Marquette Challenge, but rebounded to win both tilts, 3-1.
Chan's squad rushed out to fast start to the tune of a 12-5 advantage in the second set. Veteran setter Madalyn Shalter distributed the ball evenly across the court as she found Holthus, Dutchman, Akanbi and Paffen all for early scores.
The resilient Bulldogs strung together a few quick runs, but Northwestern was able to maintain control of the frame. The Wildcats punctuated a 25-16 second-set win with kills on swings from Holthus.
After two sets, Holthus led all players in the match with 10 kills, while Dutchman and Akanbi were tied with seven apiece. Shalter led all players with 24 assists through two and was tied for the match lead with 12 digs.
Dutchman served the Wildcats to another sizable advantage in the third set. The redshirt sophomore went to the line to serve with a two-point lead, but by the time she was done she had given her team a 13-5 cushion. Drake battled on and eventually pulled to within four points at 17-13. Northwestern regrouped and went on a quick 3-1 run to go up 20-14 and put the contest out of reach.
Holthus, the preseason All-Big Ten selection, led all players in the contest with 14 kills. Dutchman also finished in double-digits with 10, while Akanbi registered nine kills for NU. Shalter closed with her third double-double in as many matches with a team-high 34 assists and 14 digs for the Wildcats.
Dutchman recorded two service aces Friday and freshman Abbie Kraus tallied a career-best three to go along with 10 digs. Monica McGreal also pitched in with 12 digs in the win.
With the victory, Chan inched closer to 200 career victories. The 13-year veteran of the Wildcat bench owns 195 triumphs as a collegiate head coach, including 177 at Northwestern.
The Wildcats have a pair of matches on the docket Saturday. NU will open the day by facing its second BIG EAST opponent of the season, Cincinnati, at 11 a.m. CT. Chan's squad will also play in the final match of the tournament at 8 p.m. CT against the New Mexico State Aggies. The 'Cats topped the Aggies in the finale of the 2011 Wildcat Classic, 3-0.
Be the first to know what's going on with the 'Cats -- Follow @NU_Sports on Twitter, become a fan of Northwestern Athletics on Facebook! and subscribe to the NU Sports Express e-newsletter to receive the latest news, schedule updates and video and to interact with NU. For more information on following specific Northwestern teams online, visit our Social Media page!