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    Northwestern Drops Thriller at No. 2 Penn State, 3-1

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM
    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    NUSPORTSDOTCOM

    Nov. 22, 2013

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    Penn State No. 2 Penn State 3, Northwestern 1
    Rec Hall • State College, Pa. • Attendance: 3,828

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    STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Northwestern accomplished something no team had done against No. 2 Penn State since November 1, but it was not quite enough as the Wildcats fell to the Nittany Lions in a memorable match at Rec Hall Friday, 3-1 (25-17, 25-18, 31-33, 25-20).

    Entering play the match, PSU (25-2, 16-1 B1G) had not dropped a single set since losing the first frame to Michigan on November 1. Coupled with victories in the first two games Friday, the Lions' streak had reached 20 before the Wildcats (16-13, 8-9 B1G) put an emphatic halt to the run with a dramatic 33-31 triumph of their own in the third game.

    "This team battled from start to finish tonight and I'm thrilled with the effort they gave throughout the entire match," said Northwestern head coach Keylor Chan. "Obviously we would have preferred to extend the match a bit longer, but I don't think anyone can question the determination that this group showed against one of the elite programs not only in the Big Ten, but in the entire country.

    "This group has come a long way since we began this journey," added Chan. "I truly believe that our best volleyball is still ahead of us and that starts Saturday night against Ohio State."

    The second-ranked Nittany Lions flexed their muscle early on Friday night. The Wildcats were within a pair early on, 6-4, following back-to-back kills by Katie Dutchman, but PSU erupted to go on an 11-3 run that put the 'Cats in a 10-point hole, 17-7. Northwestern kept battling and pulled to within eight on a ball handling error for the home team, but it was too little, too late as NU dropped the opener, 25-17.

    Dutchman shouldered the load on offense in the first set for the Wildcats. After transitioning back to the middle, the redshirt junior tallied five kills on nine swings without a miscue in the opening frame. Setter Caleigh Ryan spread the ball to her hitters as she notched 12 assists and added four digs in the early going for Northwestern.

    Undeterred, the Wildcats continued to play well into the second set. Caroline Niedospial served an ace to give the Purple and White its first lead of the night, 7-6. Later on, an attacking error by PSU's Nia Grant had the 'Cats nursing an 11-10 lead, but the Nittany Lions rattled off three-straight winners to take the lead for good in the second stanza. Penn State's late push denied NU the opportunity to equalize the match as it went on to win the set, 25-18.

    Dutchman continued to wield the hot hand for Northwestern as she added four more kills to bring her match total to nine through a pair of games. While the Del Mar, Calif., native was making things happen for the 'Cats, Penn State had done its homework and neutralized NU's all-time leading scorer (kills), Stephanie Holthus. The 2012 All-American was held to just a single kill in each of the first two sets Friday night.

    Holthus began to heat up as Northwestern continued to make sound decisions as it found itself in the driver's seat for much through the midway point of the third set. Holthus opened the scoring with a kill and added a few more as Northwestern steadily built a 17-14 lead. Soon, a strong block put up by by Monica McGreal and Savannah Paffen pushed NU's lead to five points at 21-16. Penn State rattled off seven-straight points, though, to take a 22-21 lead. The two teams traded blows back and forth until Dutchman planted a pair of kills to give the Wildcats an extremely hard-fought 33-31 victory, forcing a fourth set.

    Northwestern refused to back down once again as the teams returned to the floor for the fourth set. The teams traded scores before McGreal put the Wildcats ahead, 14-12, after firing back-to-back aces from the service line. Penn State answered to gain the lead, but NU would keep battling. Holthus' 13th kill of the match got her team to within a point at 21-20, but the Nittany Lions scored the final four points of the match to win the set, 25-20, and the match, 3-1.

    Dutchman had 15 kills Friday to lead the Wildcats, while newcomer Kayla Morin chipped in with 14. Dutchman committed only one attacking error in the match in 30 chances for an attacking percentage of .467, her best mark of the campaign. Holthus added 12 digs to go along with her 13 kills to notch her team-best 17th double-double of the season.

    As as become her norm, Niedospial registered 20 digs for the Wildcats as the libero, while Morin added 15. Ryan finished the match with 52 assists, 11 digs and three blocks to acquire her 11th double-double of her inaugural season in Evanston.

    Northwestern will conclude its weekend on Saturday night when it looks to knock off of the Ohio State Buckeyes (16-13, 4-13 B1G) at St. John Arena in Columbus, Ohio. Please note, the match is set to begin at 7:30 p.m. CT, 90 minutes later than previously scheduled. The Wildcats won the first clash between the two teams on October 16 at Welsh-Ryan Arena, 3-1.

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