Oct. 28, 2011
Site: Evanston, Ill. (Welsh-Ryan Arena)
Score: Northwestern 3, No. 15 Minnesota 0
Records: NU (12-10, 3-8 Big Ten), No. 15 Minnesota (12-8, 5-6 Big Ten)
Next NU Event: Saturday, Oct. 29 -- vs. Wisconsin (Welsh-Ryan Arena), 7 p.m.
EVANSTON, Ill. -- For the first time this season and the first time since knocking off No. 20 Arizona in the opening round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament, the Northwestern Wildcats defeated a highly-ranked opponent Friday night as they swept the No. 15 Minnesota Golden Gophers at Welsh-Ryan Arena, 3-0 (25-23, 25-23, 25-21).
Northwestern used a balanced attack with both Stephanie Holthus (Burlington, Ill/Central) and Yewande Akanbi (Houston, Texas/Dawson) registering double-digit kills with 14 and 10, respectively. The defensive effort was also staunch all night long as the Wildcats recorded at least 12 blocks in a second consecutive match as a team. Kathryn Chrystal (Crystal Lake, Ill./Central) led the way in that department with seven total including two solo efforts, while the reigning Big Ten Co-Defensive Player of the Week, Katie Dutchman (Del Mar, Calif./Torrey Pines) tallied four block assists. Libero Julie Chin was also aiding the cause Friday with 14 digs to lead her team, tying a match high.
"We've been building to this win and it was great to put it all together," said Northwestern head coach Keylor Chan. "We executed our scout extremely well and every single person on the court contributed in a big way at points throughout the night."
Holthus set the tone early on in the match as she buried five of her 14 kills in the opening set, which the Wildcats never trailed. Minnesota would tie the score on three occasions, but each time the home team had an emphatic answer. The final tie came at 23-23, but setter Madalyn Shalter
(Ottawa, Ohio/Ottawa-Glandorf) dumped a kill to grab the lead and Akanbi finished it off with a powerful termination thanks to an assist from Shalter to claim the set victory.
Northwestern continued to control the pace in the second set, which featured five tie scores and only one lead change. The Golden Gophers last lead came at 9-8, at which point NU went on a 4-0 run, thanks in large part to three attacking errors on Minnesota, to capture a 12-9 lead that they would not relinquish. The teams traded mini runs until it was 19-19, but then Hannah Crippen (Plainfield, Ill./North) put down a kill to give her team the lead for good. The Wildcats would go on to win the second set, 25-23, with another kill by Akanbi accounting for the set-sealer.
The third set was certainly the tightest of the trio as it featured six tie scores and five lead changes, much of it early on, however. After three straight attacking errors by his team that saw them fall behind by three points, 16-14, Chan called a critical timeout. Minnesota scored the first point after the stoppage to make it 17-14, but then the 'Cats went on a monstrous 8-0 run to grab a five-point lead at 22-17. The Gophers would crawl to within two points at 23-21, but back-to-back kills by Holthus and Dutchman helped propel the Wildcats to a second straight victory.
The straight-set win was the first for the 'Cats over Minnesota since Nov. 8, 2003, also at Welsh-Ryan Arena. It was also the 11th time this season that Northwestern disposed of an opponent in the minimum three frames.
The Wildcats have a quick turnaround as the Wisconsin Badgers invade Evanston tomorrow night at 7 p.m. Northwestern will be seeking to avenge a 3-0 loss earlier this to the Badgers back on Sept. 23 in the Big Ten opener for both teams.
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