Nov. 21, 2012
Site: Evanston, Ill. (Welsh-Ryan Arena)
Score: Illinois 3, Northwestern 2
Records: NU (16-14, 5-14 Big Ten), Illinois (13-16, 7-12 Big Ten)
Next NU Event: Saturday, Nov. 24 -- at No. 10 Nebraska (Lincoln, Neb.), 7 p.m.
EVANSTON, Ill. -- For the second time this season Northwestern and Illinois engaged in an epic five-set battle on the volleyball court and the Wildcats came up on the short end Wednesday night as they fell 3-2 (20-25, 25-22, 25-22, 20-25, 15-12).
It was only the third time Northwestern played a five-set match this season, while it was a record 13th for Illinois. The Wildcats fall to 1-2 in five-setters, while the Illini move their record to 5-8.
Stephanie Holthus paced the NU offense with 26 kills, while Katie Dutchman buried a career-best 17 and added four blocks in the loss.
The Wildcats captured a balanced first set that featured 10 tie scores and four lead changes throughout. The frame was tied at 17-17 when the home team unleashed a brilliant 7-1 run to set-up set point. After a pair of miscues, Northwestern got back on track and buried the Illini, 25-20, with Holthus' eighth and final kill of the frame.
Illinois exacted revenge in the second and third sets. The Fighting Illini won a pair of close games, both by a score of 25-22.
Needing to win the fourth set in order to extend the match, Northwestern responded in emphatic fashion. The Wildcats raced out to a 6-2 lead on a kill by Yewande Akanbi and didn't look back. The home later pushed the lead to six points at 18-12 before beginning to pull away.
The Illini would rally late to pull to within three points at 22-19, but a kill by Dutchman and back-to-back terminations from Holthus closed the set, 25-20, to even the ledger at one set apiece.
The visitors gained the upper hand in the early stages of the decisive fifth set by taking a 7-4 lead, which prompted NU head coach Keylor Chan
to use his first timeout. Chan's team responded in kind with a solid 6-3 run to even the score at 10-10 on an ace from Dutchman.
Northwestern had no answer for Illinois' Liz McMahon and Jocelynn Birks down the stretch. The duo combined for four of their team's final five points with the match-winning tally coming via an attacking error on Northwestern.
Julie Chin led NU with 22 digs Wednesday and needs only seven more to move into fourth place on the program's all-time list. Holthus added eight digs in the match an she needs nine to become the 15th player in Northwestern history to achieve that feat.
Madalyn Shalter tied her career high with 57 assists Wednesday, while also adding six digs, four blocks and four kills.
The Wildcats will wrap up the regular season on Saturday, Nov. 24 with a trip to Lincoln, Neb. for their only meeting with No. 10 Nebraska this season. Northwestern defeated the 2011 Big Ten champions on its home floor in the regular season finale last season, 3-1.
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