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    Wildcats Bust 18th-Ranked Boilermakers, 3-1

    Nov. 15, 2013

    Northwestern Northwestern 3, No. 18 Purdue 1
    Welsh-Ryan Arena • Evanston, Ill. • Attendance: 1,452

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    EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern authoritatively ended a three-game slide and defeated its third ranked opponent of the season with its victory over No. 18 Purdue at Welsh Ryan Arena Friday night. With the 3-1 (27-25, 14-25, 25-22, 25-18) triumph, the Wildcats completed their first season sweep of the Boilermakers since the 2009 campaign.

    With two wins over a ranked Purdue squad this year, coupled with a victory against then-17th-ranked Ohio State on Oct. 16, Northwestern has defeated three ranked opponents in a season for the first time since 2010, when that squad toppled five ranked foes. The fifth win that season came against Arizona in the NCAA Tournament opener.

    "This group never lost confidence in one another," said Northwestern head coach Keylor Chan. "Even when times got tough last weekend and again early tonight, they believed in each other and they found ways to make critical plays to turn back an unbelievably talented opponent in Purdue. In the Big Ten, it's all about cycling up at the right time and I feel like we took a great step in that direction on our home floor.

    "We tried something different tonight to give us that spark," added Chan in reference to a new-look lineup. "At this time of year you have to figure out what can set you apart and take you to the next level. It takes everyone on the team buying in to make it work and the 'Cats truly bought in tonight."

    At the onset of the match, NU's new-look lineup looked to working out a few kinks. With Katie Dutchman back at middle blocker for the first time this season and Monica McGreal playing all six rotations, Purdue controlled the pace of the game and got off to an early 15-5 lead. Junior outside hitter Yewande Akanbi, a valuable spark of the bench, came onto the floor and kicked off the `Cats' five-point run with her first kill of the night. Freshman outside hitter Kayla Morin followed up with an ace before senior outside hitter Stephanie Holthus tallied four more kills to narrow Purdue's lead to just one point, 16-15. Akanbi added back-to-back kills to contribute to the incredible 15-4 scoring run, which gave Northwestern its first lead of the game, 20-19.

    The Boilermakers didn't let the Wildcats off easy and fought off a set point, pushing the match all the way to 27 points. Northwestern emphatically sealed its victory in the first set, 27-25, with the help of Akanbi's second pair of back-to-back kills.

    The 10-point deficit that the home team faced in the opening set was the largest that it erased all season in a set in which it came back to win.

    NU struggled to sustain the momentum as the offense failed to get into rhythm against Purdue in the second set, falling 25-14. The Wildcats were stifled and converted only six kills while committing seven errors in the second stanza.

    The `Cats played well at the net and Savannah Paffen had two consecutive blocks, combining with Ryan for the first and Akanbi for the second, to briefly give NU its only lead of the game, 7-6. The lead was short-lived and the Boilermakers retaliated with a 19-7 scoring run to win the second set and even the match a set apiece.

    The Purple and White reversed their fortunes in the third set and quickly ran off with the lead to beat the black and gold 25-22.

    Northwestern scored first after the intermission and never looked back in the third game. McGreal shouldered the load offensively for Northwestern with five of her 11 kills in the set. NU stole a nine-point lead (19-10), their biggest of the match, with a kill from Akanbi. Purdue provided a late surge in the set and valiantly fought off five set-points for the Wildcats, but it wasn't quite enough. NU outlasted Purdue's rally and won the fourth set, 25-22, when a Boilermaker served a ball into the net.

    The 'Cats seized their momentum and controlled the lead from the start of the fourth, and ultimately final set. A kill from Akanbi ballooned the advantage to eight points at 13-5 and NU looked to be running away from the opposition. Following a timeout, Purdue orchestrated an 8-2 run to trim the deficit to four points. Later, the Black and Gold pulled to within three, but Paffen answered with her only kill of the match before three-straight Purdue miscues ended the set. NU cemented its 25-18 victory with a huge block from McGreal and Paffen. For Paffen, it was her ninth block of the match, denoting a career-high performance. McGreal finished with a season-high four stuffs.

    Holthus led all players with 21 kills Friday, marking the seventh time this season that the senior has tallied 20-or-more kills in a match. The team's lone senior also secured 15 digs as she notched her team-high 15th double-double.

    Including Holthus, three Wildcats had double-digits kills in the match with McGreal and Akanbi each adding 11. Standout libero Caroline Niedospial led the Wildcat defense yet again with 19 digs against the Purdue attack. Setter Caleigh Ryan steadied NU's offense with 41 assists; she added nine digs for good measure, too.

    After an off day Saturday, Northwestern concludes its four-match homestand on Sunday afternoon at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The Wildcats will host Indiana at noon as they look to complete the season sweep of the Hoosiers. NU won the first meeting on Oct. 11 in Bloomington, Ind., 3-2.

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