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    Wildcats Battle Hard, But Fall Short Against No. 1 Illinois

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM Northwestern recorded 12 total team blocks on Wednesday, while Illinois had 10.5.
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    Northwestern recorded 12 total team blocks on Wednesday, while Illinois had 10.5.
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    Oct. 19, 2011

    WATCH: Game Highlights | Photo Gallery

    Box Score

    Site: Evanston, Ill. (Welsh-Ryan Arena)
    Score: Northwestern 0, No. 1 Illinois 3
    Records: NU (10-10, 1-8 Big Ten), No. 1 Illinois (20-0, 9-0 Big Ten)
    Next NU Event:Saturday, Oct. 22 -- at Iowa (Carver Hawkeye Arena), 7 p.m.

    EVANSTON, Ill.-- In a match that was much closer than the final score would indicate, the Northwestern Wildcats pushed the top-ranked team in the country all night long in front of the largest crowd of the season, but No. 1 Illinois emerged with a straight-set victory at Welsh-Ryan Arena, 3-0 (25-19, 25-23, 25-19).

    The match featured 13 tie scores overall and three lead changes, all of which came in the second set. The 'Cats tallied 12 total blocks to Illinois' 10.5 and committed three fewer attacking errors, but the Illini were able to capitalize on the offensive side to grab their 20th victory of the season.

    "I thought we played solid volleyball," said Northwestern head coach Keylor Chan. "Illinois is a great team and when you play great teams you have to rise to that occasion. I don't think it was anything we didn't do; Illinois was very good tonight.

    "We just need to continue to get better," said Chan. "Illinois is number one and they're number one for a reason. We'll work on some things and try to improve ourselves."

    Illinois got out to a fast start Wednesday, scoring three straight points to open play. They would expand the lead to as many as four points on several occasions in the early going before the Wildcats settled down and began to charge back. Illinois led by three at 17-14, but a quick 3-0 run tied the score at 17 and forced Illinois to use its first timeout. Out of the break, the nation's lone undefeated squad scored the next six points and eight of 10 to seal the win in the first set, 25-19.

    The Fighting Illini charged out to a lead again in the second set, this time opening up a gap of six points at 10-4. It was déjà vu for NU, however, as the Wildcats climbed right back in the match. Trailing 13-8, Northwestern used a magnificent 9-3 run to take back the lead at 17-16. It was a short-lived lead, however, as Illinois tied it at 17 following a timeout. It was tied again at 23 points apiece, but back-to-back kills by Colleen Ward and Michelle Bartsch gave Illinois its second straight set, 25-23.

    Illinois Game Highlights

    The third set proved to be another toe-to-toe showdown with six tie scores once again. The 'Cats found themselves trailing 19-13 prompting Chan to use his final timeout of the period. The home team get down by as many as eight points before staging yet another comeback to slice the deficit to four points at 21-17 after Stephanie Holthus (Burlington, Ill./Central) buried three straight kills off feeds from libero Julie Chin (Naperville, Ill./North) and a pair from Madalyn Shalter (Ottawa, Ohio/Ottawa-Glandorf). Unfortunately that would be as close as NU would come in the ultimately decisive third set as Illinois went on to win, once again, by a score of 25-19.

    Holthus was the only Wildcat attacker to finish the match in double figures with a team-high 17 kills. Shalter led Northwestern with 26 assists and Chin led all players in the match with 22 digs. Katie Dutchman (Del Mar, Calif./Torrey Pines), the reigning Co-Defensive Player of the Week in the Big Ten continued to control the net with eight total blocks to lead all players.

    The largest crowd of the season filled Welsh-Ryan Arena on Wednesday as 1,618 fans took in the latest edition of the instate rivalry.

    The Wildcats will be back in action on Saturday night, Oct. 22, with a road match at Iowa at 7 p.m. The contest is the only one scheduled between Northwestern, which has collected three straight sweeps in the series, and the Hawkeyes. That match is available on Wildcats All-Access.

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