Las Cruces, N.M. (Pan American Center)
Score: Northwestern 3, New Mexico State 1
Records: NU (5-0, 0-0 Big Ten), New Mexico State (5-1, 0-0 WAC)
Next NU Event: Sept. 7 -- vs. Brown (New Haven, Conn.), 4 p.m. CT
LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- Northwestern came to the desert in search of a second straight tournament championship and the Wildcats got just that as they defeated the previously-unbeaten New Mexico State Aggies in the finale of the La Quinta Invitational, 3-1 (25-21, 25-22, 22-25, 27-25).
For the second straight season, Northwestern has opened the campaign with five consecutive wins. The record ties the best start for the Wildcats since 1997.
For the second straight week, junior outside hitter Stephanie Holthus was named the tournament MVP. The preseason All-Big Ten selection tallied 58 kills, 29 digs and five blocks to win earn the recognition this weekend. Holthus was joined on the La Quinta Invitational All-Tournament team by fellow Wildcats, Madalyn Shalter and Katie Dutchman.
Northwestern showed great patience and poise in the early going as the offense, captained by fifth-year senior setter Shalter, took advantage of the opportunities it was given. Dutchman's second ace of the match gave the Wildcats an early 10-5 advantage and forced NMSU head coach Mike Jordan to call a timeout. The Aggies would rally to within two points with NU leading 14-12, but they would come no closer during the first set as Wildcats persisted with pressure from every angle en route to 25-21 victory in the first set.
|[2012 La Quinta Invitational Champions]|
Northwestern continued to attack as well as they had all weekend as the squad posted a .324 attacking percentage in the opening game. Holthus led all players with six kills in the first, while Yewande Akanbi chipped in with five at a clip of .625 (5-0-8).
New Mexico State secured an early 6-3 cushion in the following frame, but the 'Cats vigorously worked to chip away at the deficit. Monica McGreal gave NU the lead once again at 9-8 with a kill through the block, her second of the set. McGreal connected on another termination to give her team a 12-9 lead. New Mexico State signaled for another timeout, but it was ineffective in hampering the Wildcat attack at the time.
Later, the Purple-and-White led 20-15, but NMSU went on a 6-2 tear to cut its deficit to one, 22-21. As she's done all season long, Holthus delivered a kill out of a timeout to squash the comeback. Northwestern was able to outlast the home team, 25-22, to take a 2-0 lead into the intermission. Akanbi delivered back-to-back scores, her 10th and 11th of the match, to close out the Aggies in game two.
Northwestern found itself behind again early in the third game, but once again, the visitors kept plugging away and grabbed the lead at 11-10 on an emphatic block by Dutchman and Holthus in the middle. Though the momentum appeared to favor Northwestern, New Mexico State put together an 11-5 run to seize the advantage once again, 21-20.
Following a timeout the Aggies did not enough to hold the lead, winning the third frame, 25-22. The loss in the third marked the first time this season that Northwestern had dropped a set with a chance to close out a match.
The fourth set began and Northwestern regained its confidence by opening an early 11-6 cushion. A four-point run pulled NMSU to within one at 11-10, 14-13 and again at 19-18 until it finally tied the score and took a 20-19 lead.
New Mexico State's unrelenting style propelled the squad to another late lead, 24-22, but Northwestern pressed on to achieve a 27-25 triumph. Holthus had two kills in the final run, Savannah Paffen added an ace and a mishandled ball by the Aggies gave NU its fifth straight win.
Holthus had 21 kills in the finale to go along with 10 digs for her third double-double of the season. Shalter handed out a match-high 52 assists and finished with nine digs and three blocks. Dutchman had seven kills and tied for the match lead with five blocks.
Earlier Saturday the Wildcats won their second match of the tournament, 3-1, against the Cincinnati Bearcats. The Purple-and-White won the first set with ease, 25-11, before falling short in the second stanza, 22-25. NU regrouped at the intermission and posted two straight wins (25-18 and 25-23) to claim the match. Holthus led all players in the match with 23 kills and posted a team-best hitting percentage of .396 (23-4-48).
Northwestern hits the road for the third straight weekend beginning Friday, Sept. 7 when it opens the Yale Classic against Brown in New Haven, Conn. The Wildcats will take on both Villanova and Yale the following day. NU is a combined 4-0 all-time against Brown and Villanova and they have never faced the Bulldogs of Yale.
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