Site: New Haven, Conn. (Lee Amphitheater)
Score: Northwestern 3, Brown 0
Records: NU (6-0, 0-0 Big Ten), Brown (2-2, 0-0 Ivy League)
Next NU Event: Saturday, Sept. 8 -- vs. Villanova (New Haven, Conn.), 11 a.m. CT; at Yale (New Haven, Conn.), 6 p.m. CT
NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Now at 6-0 on the season, Northwestern is off to its best start in 15 years following a 3-0 (25-21, 25-14, 25-21) sweep over Brown in the opening match of the Yale Invitational in New Haven, Conn. on Friday.
The last time that the Wildcats opened a season with six straight wins prior to 2012 came in 1997 under the direction of then-head coach Kevin Renshler. Current head coach Keylor Chan was in his first season as an assistant coach at Northwestern that season. The 1997 squad went on to win 10 of its first 12 matches overall.
"One of this team's greatest strengths is its ability to find a way to grind out those close sets," said Chan after Friday's win. "It seems that at some point in every match that we've played, including today, that there are one or two of those moments that can turn the tide of a match. I'm excited by the way that we've been able to win those key points so far this season."
Northwestern used a balanced attack to breeze past Brown with three players each netting 11 kills Friday. Stephanie Holthus eclipsed the 900-mark for her career with 11 and now owns 902; Katie Dutchman added 11, while committing only one error for an eye-popping clip of .667 (11 kills-1 error-15 attempts); Monica McGreal's 11 kills denote a career-high and she did it at a personal-best clip of .421 (11-3-19).
As a team, NU was sharp and hit .311 while committing a season-low 12 attacking errors. "It's great to have that balanced attack," added Chan. "We know what Holthus and Dutchman bring to the gym every night and its been great to see how Monica McGreal
has developed since the season began a few short weeks ago. All three have been an integral part of what we've accomplished thus far."
Northwestern began the afternoon in fine fashion led by McGreal. With her team already leading by two, McGreal put down her fifth kill of the match to give NU an 11-8 lead. The advantage grew to six points later in the frame at 18-12 and a kill by newcomer Savannah Paffen and back-to-back attacking errors by the Bears pushed the cushion to nine.
Brown was not fazed by the sizable deficit and dug in its heels. The Ivy League squad whittled NU's lead down to three points at 23-20, prompting Chan to call a timeout.
Following the stoppage, the Bears shaved another point of Northwestern's lead before preseason All-Big Ten honoree Holthus ended the run with her fifth kill of the set. With Paffen serving, Brown committed its seventh attacking error of the frame to propel the 'Cats to a 25-21 triumph.
NU came out firing once again in the second stanza. Dutchman had the hot hand early on as she racked up four kills and a service ace to give her team an early 9-4 lead.
From there the 'Cats refused to let off the pressure. A 10-4 run to finish the frame, punctuated by a service ace from fifth-year senior setter Madalyn Shalter, gave Northwestern a 25-14 set win and a 2-0 lead in the match as the teams retreated for a brief intermission.
The two teams traded runs throughout much of the third frame until Northwestern seized the momentum with the score knotted at 16. Following a service error by the Bears, Dutchman ripped off back-to-back aces to give Northwestern a three-point lead, 19-16.
The Bears pulled to within one point at 21-20, but as was the norm all afternoon, Northwestern found a way to thwart the comeback. Another kill from McGreal and another error by Brown pushed NU's lead to three and prompted a timeout. Out of the break the Bears got a kill from Kathryn Glickman to climb within two, but they would get no closer.
Moments later Holthus registered her 11th and final kill of the match to put NU up by three; Dutchman and McGreal put a bow on the 25-21 victory by rejecting Maddie Lord's attempt at the net.
Dutchman tied a career-high with five aces in the match, while adding a team-high three blocks. Paffen added a pair of solo blocks Friday, as well.
Senior libero Julie Chin, the backbone of Northwestern's defense, continued to climb up the school's leaderboard in that category. Entering Friday's match, the Naperville, Ill., native had tallied 1,110 digs in her storied career. By the end of the match Chin's career total was 1,120, enough to move her past Carmen Burbach and into ninth place on the all-time list.
The victory helped Chan inch closer to a personal milestone, as it was his 198th win as a collegiate head coach. Now in his 13th season in Evanston, Chan has 180 wins with NU, plus another 18 that he collected in one season as the head coach at Furman in 1999.
The Wildcats have two matches on their slate Saturday as they try to match their best start since 1987. NU will open the day by taking on its third opponent from the BIG EAST this season, Villanova, at 11 a.m. CT. Chan's squad is 2-0 against the conference this season with wins coming against Marquette and Cincinnati. Later Northwestern will take on the host Bulldogs in the finale of the Yale Invitational at 6 p.m. CT. It will be the first meeting ever between the two programs.
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