Nov. 11, 2011
Site: Evanston, Ill. (Welsh-Ryan Arena)
Score: Northwestern 3, No. 22 Ohio State 2
Records: NU (15-11, 6-9 Big Ten), No. 22 Ohio State (17-10, 7-8 Big Ten)
Next NU Event: Saturday, Nov. 12 -- vs. No. 9 Penn State (Welsh-Ryan Arena), 7 p.m.
WATCH: Match Highlights
EVANSTON -- In what is sure to go down as one of the most memorable matches of the season, Northwestern prevailed in a frenzied five-set thriller at Welsh-Ryan Arena against the No. 22 Ohio State Buckeyes, 3-2 (25-22, 21-25, 25-22, 27-25, 15-13), on Friday night.
The best of the dramatics were saved for the final set. As Caroline Niedospial (Chicago, Ill./Marist) raised her right arm to launch a serve for match point with her team leading, 14-13, Welsh-Ryan Arena completely went dark. The lights had momentarily gone out after a power outage in the Evanston area and the teams were forced to sit through a lengthy delay. When play resumed, the freshman calmly raised her arm yet again and this time delivered a match-winning ace for the Wildcats.
NU led the fifth set by as many as four points, 13-9, before OSU mounted a late charge. The Buckeyes scored the next four points, all on blocks, prompting Northwestern to call its final timeout. Stephanie Holthus (Burlington, Ill./Central) buried her 25th kill of the match right before the arena went dark.
"Sometimes things like that happen," said Northwestern head coach Keylor Chan about the power problem late in the match. "That's just life. We remained composed when play resumed and we were able to execute on the final play to win tonight."
Niedospial was not the only hero on the night for Northwestern. The Wildcats got monster efforts from Julie Chin (Naperville, Ill./North), who had a career-high 29 digs, and from Holthus, who led all players with 25 kills, one shy of her own career best and from Hannah Crippen (Plainfield, Ill./North) who tallied a personal-best 14 kills and achieved a hitting percentage of .323 (14-4-31).
The first set was a back-and-forth affair with the Wildcats eventually coming out on top, 25-22. The two teams traded punches like prizefighters in the first frame, which featured 13 tie scores and nine lead changes between the 'Cats and Buckeyes. Trailing 19-20, Northwestern off the next three straight points to build the advantage to 22-20 and force a timeout by OSU. The Wildcats maintained the pressure and sealed the final margin on a kill by Katie Dutchman (Del Mar, Calif./Torrey Pines).
In the second, Ohio State raced out to an early 6-1 lead out of the gate before the 'Cats got their feet set and dug back in the frame. They would eventually claw all the way back to tie the set at 12 points apiece with the help of back-to-back terminations by Crippen and Holthus. Later, the score was tied at 16 when OSU scored four straight to seize the momentum back and eventually go on to win the set point, 25-21.
The `Cats won the crucial third set by a final score of 25-22. Northwestern got off to a quick start in the frame, leading 4-1, but Ohio State was able to charge back to grab a 7-5 advantage. NU took the lead back at 8-7 following an error on Ohio State and was in control the rest of the set. Despite a Buckeye rally to close the gap at the end, the Wildcats ultimately prevailed on a powerful kill by Akanbi.
Ohio State rallied when it counted to win the fourth set, 27-25, and force a decisive fifth frame. NU held a late lead in the frame at 23-22, but the Buckeyes were able to execute mistake-free volleyball the rest of the way to edge the 'Cats by the narrow two-point margin.
The Wildcats will be back in action in less than 24 hours right back at Welsh-Ryan Arena. On Saturday, the 'Cats will host No. 9 Penn State in Chipotle Big Game. The first 50 students in attendance will receive a "buy one, get one" coupon from Chipotle and the first 1,500 fans will receive a purple t-shirt courtesy of Coke Zero. The match has been designated a Purple Out and everyone planning to attend is encouraged to wear the color to support Northwestern.
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