Nov. 18, 2011
Score: No. 23 Michigan 3, Northwestern 2
Site: Ann Arbor, Mich. (Cliff Keen Arena)
Records: NU (15-13, 6-11 Big Ten), No. 23 Michigan (19-10, 7-10 Big Ten)
Next NU Event: Saturday, Nov. 19 -- at Michigan State (Jenison Fieldhouse), 6 p.m. CT.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- For the second time this season, it took a decisive fifth set for the Northwestern Wildcats and No. 23 Michigan Wolverines to settle the score on the volleyball court, but as they did at Welsh-Ryan Arena in October, the Wolverines escaped with the victory Friday night, 3-2 (25-21, 25-27, 25-21, 23-25, 15-11).
Yewande Akanbi (Houston, Texas/Dawson) had a career-high 18 kills and personal-best seven total blocks, while Stephanie Holthus (Burlington, Ill./Central) and Madalyn Shalter (Ottawa, Ohio/Ottawa-Glandorf) each recorded double-doubles for the 'Cats. Julie Chin (Naperville, Ill./North) became the 13th player in program history to tally 1,000 career digs as she finished the game with 17. The junior now has 1,004 in her nearly three full seasons in a Wildcat uniform.
Holthus had 20 kills and 13 digs, while Shalter dug out a season-high 19 attacks and handed out 44 assists in the match for Northwestern. For Holthus, it was the 12th double-double of the season, while Shalter recorded her ninth.
The first set was a tightly contested one as neither team was able to establish a lead of larger than four points in the frame. Northwestern led 15-12 following a kill by Hannah Crippen (Plainfield, Ill./North), but the Wolverines stormed back on a 6-2 run to grab the lead at 18-17 and force NU head coach Keylor Chan to call a timeout. A block and a kill out of the stoppage gave Michigan its largest lead of the set at 20-17 and Chan quickly burned his final timeout of the premier set.
The Wildcats responded out of the second break and cut the deficit to one point at 20-19 following a block by Katie Dutchman
(Del Mar, Calif./Torrey Pines) and Akanbi, but a service error and a kill by UM's Alex Hunt quickly extended it back to three points, 22-19. The 'Cats would come no closer than two point as the Wolverines' Claire McElheny sealed the 25-21 set-one victory with a kill, her second of the night.
The Wolverines shot out to a fast start in the second set as they built an early 5-0 lead before a service error stunted their momentum. The 'Cats stayed the course and climbed all the way back to tie the set at 11 points apiece following a solo block off the hands of Kathryn Chrystal (Crystal Lake, Ill./Central). Moments later, NU had its first lead of the night at 14-13 on a kill by Holthus, though it proved to be short-lived as an error on the Wildcats tied the score just one play later.
Northwestern was not to be denied, however, as Chan's bunch clawed back to score three straight times and grab the lead once again at 20-19. The teams went back and forth and McIlheny put down another ball to give Michigan a 24-23 lead, prompting Chan to call timeout. Back-to-back errors on Michigan gave NU a 25-24 lead and forced the maize and blue to call timeout. After the teams traded points again, Akanbi powered down back-to-back kills to give the Wildcats a 27-25 set victory, which tied the match at one set apiece.
The third set followed a similar pattern as the first with the squads staying within four points of one another throughout the action. Another kill by Akanbi pulled NU to within two points at 23-21, but Michigan got a kill from McIlheny and Akanbi's effort was blocked on the next play as the Wolverines won by an identical margin from the first set, 25-21.
In the fourth frame it was Northwestern that broke out to an early lead, 13-9, almost halfway through the set. A quick 6-1 run, however, brought UM right back and gave the Wolverines their first lead of the set, 15-14. After a timeout, NU regained the lead (16-15) on a block from Akanbi and Chrystal and a service ace from Alex Ayers (Playa Del Rey, Calif./Marymount).
Michigan quickly regrouped, however, to take back control of the score, 19-17. A kill by Crippen cut it back to one, however, the Wolverines scored two straight to go up, 21-18, forcing Chan to call timeout. Michigan extended the advantage to 23-19, but NU scored three straight tallies to pull within one, 23-22, as the Wolverines signaled for a stoppage in play.
Following the break, Holthus put down back-to-back to kills to give Northwestern the lead once again, 24-23. For good measure, she added another to secure set point and force a decisive fifth set.
The final set saw Michigan race out to 6-2 lead, but Northwestern would not back down with ease. The Wildcats made it 7-5 on a kill by Holthus before the Wolverines scored again to build the lead back to three points as the teams switched sides. The Wildcats fought hard, but ultimately, Michigan emerged with a 15-11 set win to secure their seventh Big Ten triumph of the season.
Caroline Niedospial (Chicago, Ill./Marist) chipped in with a career-high 12 digs, while Chrystal added seven total blocks for NU.
The three-match road trip continues Saturday night with the second stop at Michigan State. The Spartans, who received 13 votes in the latest installment of the AVCA top-25 coaches poll, knocked off the Wildcats in the first meeting of the season on Oct. 14, 3-1, at Welsh-Ryan Arena. Saturday's rematch at the Jenison Fieldhouse is slated to begin at 6 p.m. CT.
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