Aug 31, 2013
KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- Northwestern went the distance for the second time in as many days, but this time the Wildcats came out on top after beating the Milwaukee Panthers in exciting fashion, 3-2 (23-25, 25-16, 25-20, 23-25, 15-7). The victory marks the first of the young season for head coach Keylor Chan and the squad.
Northwestern appeared to be in control early Saturday as it built a six-point lead, 12-6, on an asissted block from Savannah Paffen and setter Caleigh Ryan. The Wildcats continued to press, but Milwaukee didn't relent. The Panthers eventually secured a 20-19 lead before Yewande Akanbi drilled a kill to even the ledger. Milwaukee then surged ahead to take a two-point lead at 24-22; Katie Dutchman scored for NU to stave off set-point, but the Panthers eventually converted a kill off the hand of Rachel Neuberger to take the frame, 25-23. The Wildcats hit at a slightly higher clip and out-blocked their opponent in the first, but Milwaukee's 19 kills in the stanza made the difference.
The 'Cats shook off the previous loss rather fast as they raced out to a red-hot start in the second with a 7-1 lead. UWM came to within three pointd at 10-7, but Maddie Slater registered a termination and Northwestern would never trail by more than five points the rest of the set en route to a 25-16 victory. The Panthers hit .051 in the game as they tallied only nine kills and committed seven errors on 39 attempts. On the other side of the net, NU buried a workmanlike 14 kills and committed only four miscues in 34 tries.
Chicago's Big Ten Team TM continued to have early success in the third game. The squad built a 17-10 cushion, but could not put away Milwaukee that easily. The Panthers would slide to within a pair at 20-18, but a kill from Paffen ended the brief run and the Wildcats would eventually go on to win their second set of the afternoon, 25-20.
UWM came out rejuvenated in the fourth set and gained a quick 9-2 lead. The Wildcats built an intimidating wall at the net and refused to let Milwaukee score as they essentially blocked their way back into the game. The 'Cats had four blocks in the set and each one helped them to get in position to gain the lead. Dutchman put her team on top, 16-15, with a kill, but the advantage wouldn't last. Needing to win the set to force the fifth set, Milwaukee knotted things up at 22-22 and closed on a 3-1 run to do just that.
Unlike the previous night when the opponent was the aggressor early in the fifth, Northwestern took firm hold of the situation this time around. Stephanie Holthus and Dutchman each had two early kills as the 'Cats gained a quick 6-2 lead. Abbie Kraus continued to serve well with an ace that prompted a UWM timeout at 7-2. The stoppage did little to halt NU's momentum, however, as it never trailed by more than five points the rest of the way as it cruised to a 15-7 win and the first victory of the 2013 campaign. The victors were near flawless in the fifth set as they scored 11 kills without a misfire on 21 attempts.
"I'm proud of the way that we continued to battle even when things weren't going our way," said Chan. "We never put our heads down and found a way to win against another tough team. Milwaukee played a solid match and gave everything we could handle."
Freshman Kayla Morin played a pivotal role in the final session as she hammered down four of her career-high 11 kills in the final few moments. Morin also led Northwestern - and all players- with 22 digs to register the first double-double of her young career.
Three other Northwestern players clubbed double-digit digs, led by Holthus' 16. Dutchman put down a season-high 15 and Paffen added 13 from her spot in the middle. The Wildcats hit .243 for the match while holding the Panthers to a mark of .140
As a team, NU registered a season-high 15.5 blocks Saturday afternoon with six players notching at least two rejections.
For her tremendous effort in all three matches at the Holiday Inn-West Bronco Classic, Dutchman was named to the All-Tournament Team.
Northwestern will be back in action with a pair of matches at home on Friday, Sept. 6 in the Wildcat Challenge. The 'Cats will tangle with Ivy League foe Columbia at noon before hosting Belmont in the nightcap at 7 p.m. The Wildcat Challenge wraps up on Sunday, Sept. 8 with a late-morning affair against Boise State at 11:30 a.m.
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