Sept. 16, 2012
Site: Evanston, Ill. (Welsh-Ryan Arena)
Score: Northwestern 3, Western Michigan 1
Records: NU (11-0, 0-0 Big Ten), Western Michigan (7-5, 0-0 Mid-American Conference)
Next NU Event: Friday, Sept. 21-- vs. Wisconsin (Welsh-Ryan Arena), 7 p.m.
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern capped off an undefeated nonconference schedule with a 3-1 (25-13, 25-20, 21-25, 25-23) victory over the Western Michigan Broncos in the finale of the 31st Wildcat Classic at Welsh-Ryan Arena Sunday.
NU junior Stephanie Holthus made it a perfect four-peat as she was named tournament MVP for the fourth consecutive weekend. The award also marked the seventh time in the past two seasons that the Burlington, Ill., native claimed MVP honors.
The outside hitter averaged 4.00 kills per set for the second straight weekend and also added 2.90 digs per set, five blocks and three aces. In Sunday's finale against WMU, Holthus led all players with 18 kills and added 11 digs to record her sixth double-double of the season.
Northwestern picked up right where it left off on Friday and smothered the visiting Broncos in the first set, 25-13. The teams traded points through the first eight and then the Wildcats went on a 10-3 run to create some distance. Holthus did most of the heavy lifting in the first set by accounting for seven of NU's 16 kills. The 'Cats committed only one attacking error in the first frame, while Western Michigan was hampered by six miscues.
|[NU head coach Keylor Chan discusses NU's great start.]|
In the second set the teams exchanged points until it was 11-10 in favor of the home team. At that point a kill by newcomer Savannah Paffen sparked an 8-2 run to give the Wildcats a seven-point lead at 19-12. Western Michigan made a late push, but a ferocious kill by Holthus sealed the set, 25-20, and gave NU a 2-0 lead as the teams broke for an intermission.
The Wildcats, who had only three attacking errors through the first two games, began to unravel ever so slightly in the third frame. Northwestern was done in by 11 attacking errors in the stanza and Western Michigan capitalized and won the third, 25-21.
The Broncos also did a nice job holding Holthus in check by limiting the preseason All-Big Ten honoree to one kill on 16 swings in the third. The hitter was dinged up diving for an errant pass, but she would be quickly bandaged and would remain in the contest.
Western Michigan capitalized on its momentum to build a 13-9 advantage in the fourth set. The visitors would eventually extend he lead to five points at 18-13 before Northwestern really dug in its heels. On the strength of another 8-2 run, the 'Cats rallied all the way back to grab the lead, 21-20.
Following a timeout, the Broncos evened the score at 21-21. Facing the prospect of heading to a decisive fifth set for the first time this season, the Wildcats proved that they were unwilling to go to the extra session. Holthus unleashed the first of three kills down the stretch, all from setter Madalyn Shalter, to propel Northwestern to a 25-23 victory and its fourth tournament title this season.
Shalter and redshirt sophomore Katie Dutchman were also named to the Wildcat Classic All-Tournament Team. Shalter handed out 11.40 assists per set and dug out 3.50 attacks per set, both team-bests. Shalter collected 17 digs to go along with 45 assists Sunday to record her eighth double-double in 11 chances this year.
Dutchman led the team with a hitting percentage of .484 for the tournament (33 kills - 3 errors - 62 total attempts). She led the squad with four blocks Sunday and finished second with 12 kills.
Dating back to the 2011 regular-season finale when Northwestern toppled then-second-ranked Nebraska, the Wildcats have won 12 straight matches. The last time that any team in program history won 12-straight contests came in 1983. This year's run of 11 in-a-row is the longest under head coach Keylor Chan.
The Wildcats open Big Ten play next weekend when the Wisconsin Badgers and Minnesota Golden Gophers invade Welsh-Ryan Arena on Friday and Sunday, respectively. Northwestern defeated both schools on its home floor last season. Friday's tilt against the Badgers is set for 7 p.m. with a matinee on tap for Sunday at 1 p.m.
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