Sept. 1, 2012
Site: Las Cruces, N.M. (Pan American Center)
Score: Northwestern 3, Cincinnati 1
Records: NU (4-0, 0-0 Big Ten), Cincinnati (0-5, 0-0 BIG EAST)
Next NU Event: Tonight -- at New Mexico State (Las Cruces, N.M.), 8 p.m. CT
LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- Playing in the morning for the first time this season proved to be no hindrance for the Northwestern Wildcats as they worked past the Cincinnati Bearcats, 3-1 (25-11, 22-25, 25-18, 25-23), at the La Quinta Invitational in Las Cruces, N.M.
Preseason All-Big Ten honoree Stephanie Holthus continued her tear through the nonconference schedule as she posted a season-high 23 kills at her best clip of the campaign, .396 (23-4-48). Yewande Akanbi put down nine kills for the second straight match and Katie Dutchman added eight kills and four blocks Saturday for NU.
"We came out with a lot of energy at the start today and that's important when you're not used to playing this early in the day at this point in the season,." said Northwestern head coach Keylor Chan. "Stephanie [Holthus] was incredible for us again and a ton of other people stepped up to help us get this one."
Northwestern's squad came out with tons of energy to start to the morning match. The Wildcats jumped on the Bearcats early Saturday by racing out to a 10-3 lead. Monica McGreal and Dutchman paired up for two early blocks, while Holthus continued to have the hot hand offensively for NU with a trio of kills in the run.
The red-hot start continued throughout the set as the Wildcats outscored the Bearcats 15-8 the rest of the way to take the first game, 25-11. It was the first time Northwestern held an opponent to 11 points in a set since they held the Iowa Hawkeyes to that total in the second game on Oct. 22, 2011.
Holthus hit an eye-popping .545 in the frame by tallying six kills on 11 swings without an attacking error.
The two foes played back-and-forth volleyball throughout much of the second set. The score was knotted at 15 points apiece when the Wildcats went on a quick three-point run to take an 18-15 lead. Later UC would grab the lead at 22-21 when an attempt off the swing of Akanbi sailed long.
Following a timeout called by NU, the Bearcats continued their run with two more scores before Holthus temporarily stopped the bleeding with her 12th termination of the match. Cincinnati came right back and scored on a kill by Emily Hayden to win the set, 25-22, and tie the contest at 1-1 as the teams retreated for a brief intermission.
Northwestern began to assert itself once again midway through the third set. The Wildcats produced a 5-1 run, finished by Holthus'15th kill of the morning, to grab a 15-9 lead and force Cincinnati to call its second timeout of the set. The stoppage did little to stunt NU's momentum as the 'Cats outscored Cincy by a point the rest of the set to win, 25-18. Setter Madalyn Shalter finished the frame with a crafty dump shot for her first kill of the match.
Northwestern trailed in the fourth set, 14-10, but the 'Cats roared back to tie the stanza and eventually grab a 16-15 lead on an ace by Dutchman who ranks amongst the Big Ten leaders in that category.
Cincinnati regained the lead, but the Wildcats continued to show the trademark resilience that they've displayed all season. Savannah Paffen buried a kill to put NU up 21-20 and moments later McGreal scored on a soft kill to put Northwestern up by three, 23-20. The Bearcats clawed back and scored three straight times to tie the set once again. Holthus broke the tie to put NU up, 24-23, and McGreal served up Northwestern's fifth and final ace of the day to clinch the match.
Senior libero Julie Chin continued to climb up Northwestern's all-time list for digs. With a team-high 15 against the Bearcats, the Naperville, Ill., native passed Lizzie Carlson ('02-'05) for 10th place with a career total of 1,098. Next on the list is Carmen Burbach('97-'00) who owns 1,117 digs in a Wildcat uniform.
Shalter also reached a milestone Saturday morning. The fifth-year senior appeared in her 100th match for Northwestern. She has started 86 of those contests.
The Wildcats will wrap up the La Quinta Invitational later this evening against the NMSU Aggies at 8 p.m. CT. Northwestern leads the all-time series between the two schools, 2-0, including a 3-0 win in the finale of last season's Wildcat Classic at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
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