Sep 8, 2013
Northwestern 3, Boise State 0
Welsh-Ryan Arena Evanston, Ill. Attendance: 252
Box Score | Box Score
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern turned in its finest all-around performance of the young season Sunday afternoon as it cruised past the Boise State Broncos, 3-0, (25-18, 25-17, 26-24) in the finale of the 2013 Wildcat Challenge.
"We're truly starting to put it all together and I think that really showed on the floor today," said NU head coach Keylor Chan. "I think this team is really starting to believe in the process it takes to succeed and they're gaining more confidence every time they hit the court.
"Boise State proved to be a tough challenge for us today, but the girls really rose to the task and put forth a great effort from start to finish," said Chan.
The Wildcats (4-2) came out aggressive and full of energy late Sunday morning. After ceding the first point of the match, Northwestern evened the score on Katie Dutchman's first kill of the day and it would not trail again for the duration of the frame. The home team built its lead to as many as five points and the Broncos would come no closer than two for much of the game. Fittingly, it was Dutchman's third kill of the set that put Boise State away, 25-18.
Savannah Paffen helped NU control the first set in all phases of the game. The middle blocker led all players with five kills early on and she did so on six attempts without an error. Paffen also added a pair of blocks and an ace for good measure.
The second set followed a similar blueprint with the Wildcats playing from the lead position for much of the time. After falling behind 2-1, NU used a kill from Stephanie Holthus off a pass from setter Caleigh Ryan to even the ledger. The second set featured two tie scores from that point on, but Boise State was never able to gain the lead. Northwestern built its largest lead of the afternoon at eight points (20-12) before the Broncos produced a brief surge to pull within four points. Chan called a timeout and the respite was all the 'Cats would need to produce a 4-1 run to close the second with a 25-17 victory.
The third stanza seemed to be a game of runs by both squads. Northwestern surged out of the gate with a 5-1 lead, but the Broncos answered with a 4-1 stretch of their own to pull within a point. Fortunately the Wildcats were always ready to counter the punch. When Boise State took a 23-22 following an NU service error, Dutchman answered with her 11th kill of the match to knot the affair. Paffen put the 'Cats up two, but BSU fought off match point on a kill by Sarah Horton. The visitors then committed back-to-back attacking errors to hand the match and the Wildcat Challenge crown to their grateful hosts.
Holthus led all players with 15 kills Sunday. Dutchman (11), Paffen (10) and freshman Kayla Morin (10) were also in double figures for Northwestern. Ryan handed out a match-best 39 assists and libero Caroline Niedospial added a career-high six helpers for NU. The Chicago native also led her team with 12 digs. Ryan tallied 11 digs to record her first collegiate double-double.
For her outstanding performance in the three-day tournament, NU's Holthus was named the Wildcat Challenge's most valuable player. The senior was joined on the All-Tournament team by fellow Wildcats Dutchman and Ryan.
Holthus averaged 4.20 kills per set in wins against Columbia, Belmont and Boise State. She also added an average of 10 digs per match. On Friday night against Belmont, Holthus served a career-high six aces for the Wildcats. Dutchman averaged 3.30 kills per set at a clip of .312. Ryan spread the ball around efficiently all weekend as she recorded 12.0 assists per set during the Wildcat Challenge.
Northwestern will bid aloha to the mainland this week as they head west to the 50th state for the Verizon Volleyball Challenge. The Wildcats will face Arizona on Thursday, Sept. 12 followed by No. 9 Hawai'i on Sept. 13 and Portland State on Sept. 14 during their stint in Honolulu.
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