Aug. 27, 2014
EVANSTON, Ill. -- After many months of anticipation and preparation, the time has come for the Northwestern volleyball team to take the floor once again to open the 2014 season. The Wildcats begin the campaign this weekend with three matches at the NIU Invitational in DeKalb, Ill.
The Wildcats begin their 38th season of intercollegiate competition on Friday, August 29 when they face the Colorado Buffaloes, a 2013 NCAA Tournament team, at 5 p.m. The tournament concludes Saturday, August 30 with tilts against Presbyterian at 10 a.m. and Northern Illinois in the nightcap at 7 p.m.
Strong Starts Under Chan
Northwestern head coach Keylor Chan, now in his 15th season at the helm, has a strong winning percentage in the first match of the season. The Wildcats are 10-4 (.714) on opening day under Chan with wins coming in three of the last four opportunities.
The Wildcats have an experienced group of upperclassmen to lead the way this season. The roster features one fifth-year senior in MB Katie Dutchman; three true seniors in Yewande Akanbi, Monica McGreal and Savannah Paffen; and two redshirt juniors in Maggie Burnham and Caroline Niedospial. The six veterans have combined to play in 383 matches for Northwestern with 255 starts.
Wildcats Welcome Class of 2018
Northwestern welcomes four freshmen to its volleyball family for the start of the 2014 season. Outside hitter Symone Abbott (Northville, Mich./Northville), middle blocker Garbrielle Hazen (Columbia City, Ind./Columbia City), defensive specialist Katie Kniep (Roscoe, Ill./Honoegah) and setter Taylor Tashima (Wilmette, Ill./New Trier) are the newest and youngest Wildcats. Hazen and Tashima were listed prominently on PrepVolleyball.com's Top Senior Aces list.
One More New Face
In addition to its four freshmen, Northwestern boasts one additional new face on its roster this season. Sophomore Candice Yager (St. Michael, Minn./St. Michael-Albertville/North Dakota) is in her first season as a Wildcat after spending her freshman year at North Dakota. The St. Michael, Minn., native appeared in 31 matches for UND and amassed 1.6 digs per set as a defensive specialist. Yager's older sister, Catherine, lettered in volleyball in the Big Ten at Michigan from 2009-11.
Fine in Five
The Wildcats needed five sets to decide the outcome on eight occasions last year, posting victories in six of those contests. A year ago Northwestern won six five-set matches in one season for the first time ever in the Keylor Chan era (since 2000). NU's wins came over Milwaukee, South Florida, Indiana (twice), No. 20 Purdue and (rv) Illinois. The team's two five-set losses both came on the road at Western Michigan and No. 11 Nebraska.
Colorado, which is receiving votes in the AVCA top 25 coaches poll, returns four starters and its libero from the 2013 NCAA Tournament squad. Taylor Simpson is the top attacker for the Buffaloes after averaging 3.61 kills per set a year ago. She is the oldest of three sisters on the team, joining Cierra, a sophomore defensive specialist, and Gabby, a freshman setter. CU leads the all-time series against the 'Cats, 1-0, and the teams have not met sine 1991.
Presbyterian College is coming off of a nine-win campaign in 2013 with seven of those victories coming in Big South Conference play. The Blue Hose are led by redshirt senior libero Mary Trimpe, who was selected to the Big South Preseason All-Conference Team. The Normal, Ill., native led her team with 684 digs and 55 aces a year ago. Northwestern won the only previous meeting between the two programs, which came in 2009 in Charlotte, N.C.
Scouting Northern Illinois
NIU, which was recently pegged to finish second in the MAC West Division, won 19 matches a year ago under head coach Ray Gooden. Senior Mackenzie Roddy was named to the Preseason All-MAC West team for the second consecutive year. An outside hitter, Roddy averaged 3.48 kills per set and 2.63 digs per set a year ago. The Wildcats hold a narrow 10-8-1 edge in the all-time series, but the two programs have not faced off since 1997.
The Wildcats will take another road trip next weekend when they head to San Diego, Calif. for a three-match tournament. Northwestern will play Cal State Fullerton on Friday, Sept. 5 before battling Brown and No. 14 San Diego the following day. The event marks a homecoming for Katie Dutchman and Kelly Boutelle, who both grew up in nearby Del Mar, Calif.
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