Nov. 23, 2011
Score: No. 7 Illinois 3, Northwestern 0
Site: Champaign, Ill. (Huff Hall)
Records: NU (15-15, 6-13 Big Ten), No. 7 Illinois (26-4, 15-4 Big Ten)
Next NU Event: Saturday, Nov. 26 -- vs. No. 2 Nebraska (Welsh-Ryan Arena), 7 p.m.
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Stephanie Holthus and Madalyn Shalter each recorded double-doubles in the third straight match, however that was not enough to carry Northwestern as the Wildcats fell to No. 7 Illinois at Huff Hall in Champaign, Ill., 3-0 (25-18, 25-22, 25-23) on Wednesday night.
Holthus (Burlington, Ill./Central) sent down a match-high 17 kills and dug out 10 attacks, while Shalter (Ottawa, Ohio/Ottawa-Glandorf) handed out 27 assists and recorded 18 digs, one shy of a season-high, for the Wildcats. For Holthus, it was her sixth double-double in the last eight matches, while Shalter accomplished the feat for the fourth time in her last five matches.
In the opening set, the Wildcats raced out to a quick 5-1 lead before the Illini rattled off five straight points of their own to grab a 6-5 advantage. The two instate rivals went back and forth until the set was tied at 11 points apiece. Illinois went on a 5-2 run to grab a three-point lead, which prompted NU head coach Keylor Chan to call a timeout.
The lead was extended to four (17-13), when the 'Cats scored back-to-back points to slice the deficit to two points. Unfortunately, that was as close as the visitors would come for the duration of the frame. Trailing by two points, 19-17, Illinois got a kill from Liz McMahon and capitalized on a Northwestern error to build the lead to 21-17. The Illini would go on to outscore NU, 6-1 the rest of the way win the opening set, 25-18.
Northwestern was plagued by 10 attacking errors in the opening set while connecting on only nine kills. Holthus and Yewande Akanbi (Houston, Texas/Dawson) each scored three kills for NU in the first frame. On the other side of the net, Illinois hit at a clip of .250 with 14 kills to just a quartet of errors. Colleen Ward led all players with four terminations in set one.
The second set started in the same fashion as the first with the Wildcats breaking out to an early 5-1 advantage. Illinois then went on a 7-2 run to grab the lead for the first time in the set. The teams once again battled until the score was knotted at 11-11. This time around it was Northwestern that built up a three-point lead, 16-13.
Trailing by one point Ward hammered down two straight kills to give her team a 20-19 lead. NU quickly tied it 20 after a timeout, but Ward struck again to give Illinois a 21-20 advantage, one her team would not relinquish. Following a hitting error that allowed Northwestern to pull within one point at 23-22, McMahon buried back-to-back kills to give her team a 25-22 set win and a 2-0 lead in the match.
The Wildcats found a much better offensive flow in set number two as they cut their attacking errors in half from 10 to five. Hannah Crippen (Plainfield, Ill./North) was perfect on the attack in the second set as she scored four kills on four attempts. Holthus led NU with five kills, while Ward led all players with six.
The third set was evenly played at the onset with the teams splitting the first 16 points. Northwestern scored four of the next five tallies to earn a 12-9 cushion. The lead was 18-16 when Illinois called a timeout to try and stunt NU's momentum. The ploy worked as the Illini went on to outscore Northwestern 9-7 down the stretch to seal the three-set victory.
Akanbi tallied 10 kills for the 'Cats, while Caroline Niedospial (Chicago, Ill./Marist) and Julie Chin (Naperville, Ill./North) each notched 10 digs for Northwestern.
The 'Cats will wrap up the 2011 regular season on Saturday night when they host No. 2 Nebraska at Welsh-Ryan Arena at 7 p.m. The match is the first ever between Northwestern and Nebraska since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten. It's Senior Night for the Wildcats and the team's two departing student-athletes, Alex Ayers and Mary Grace Gallagher will be honored in a pre-match ceremony.
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