Oct. 18, 2013
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Looking to build on its three-match winning streak, Northwestern continues its homestand Sunday afternoon when the fourth-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions invade Welsh-Ryan Arena at 1 p.m.
Protect This House
The Wildcats have done a great job of winning on their home court at Welsh-Ryan Arena this season and are off to their best start there since 2010 (9-1). The 'Cats are 8-1 in Evanston this season with the wins coming against Columbia, Belmont, Boise State, South Florida, Miami (OH), IUPUI, Iowa and No. 17 Ohio State. Northwestern's lone loss came against 12th-ranked Nebraska on Sept. 27. In 2012, NU won just five of its 13 home matches.
Northwestern setter Caleigh Ryan was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Week for the second time in her young career on Monday. The Glen Ellyn, Ill., native averaged 11.40 assists per set over the weekend in wins against Indiana and Purdue. The setter helped pilot NU's offense to a .301 attacking percentage against the Hoosiers as five different 'Cats connected for at least eight kills. Ryan set a career high with 67 assists against the Boilermakers and finished that match with nine digs to fall just short of snatching her fifth double-double. It's the second time this season that Ryan has claimed the weekly accolade, joining teammate Katie Dutchman as the program's only multiple-award winners in that category and Nebraska's Amber Rolfzen as the only two-time winners this year.
Straight to the Top
Outside hitter Stephanie Holthus is continuing her ascent to the top of the list in several all-time NU record categories. After opening the season 10th on the all-time list in kills, Holthus surpassed Dawn Reig (1980-'83) against Indiana Friday night and now sits in third place with 1,587 kills. She needs 31 kills to catch Erika Lange (2000-'03), who currently sits second. The Burlington, Ill., native also moved ahead of Madalyn Shalter (2008-'12) and Carmen Burbach (1997-2000) in digs during the Wildcat Classic. The senior has 1,211 digs and ranks 10th all-time in that category. Entering this week, she ranks first all-time, just ahead of Lange, with 3.73 kills per set in her career.
The Wildcats will face another challenging schedule in 2013, both in and out of conference play. Nine teams on NU's schedule are ranked in this week's AVCA top 25 coaches poll. Two more squads, Oklahoma and Illinois, received votes in the latest edition of the poll that was released on Monday. Northwestern will play a total of 19 matches against teams either in the top 25 or receiving votes with six complete thus far (Oklahoma, Hawai'i, Nebraska, Michigan, Michigan State, and Purdue). NU's next three matches, including Sunday's tilt with Penn State, are against teams that are either ranked or receiving votes this week. The Nittany Lions are the highest-ranked foe the Wildcats have faced this season.
Scouting No. 4 Penn State
2013 Record: 14-2, 5-1 Big Ten, ranked No. 4 in this week's AVCA top 25 coaches poll
Series History: Penn State leads, 44-8
Last NU win: Nov. 23, 2002 at Welsh-Ryan Arena (3-1)
Last PSU win: Nov. 10, 2012 at Welsh-Ryan Arena (3-0)
Head Coach: Russ Rose (George Williams, '75)
Top Performers: Ariel Scott, Sr. RS (3.40 kps, .282 pct, 0.82 bps); Katie Slay, Sr. MH (2.26 kps, .444 pct, 1.58 bps); Micha Hancock, Jr. S (10.81 aps, 0.72 aces per set 1.93 dps)
Notable: Penn State won a pair of weekly awards from the Big Ten Conference this week. Middle hitter Katie Slay was named the league's Player of the Week behind 18 blocks and 22 kills in victories over Minnesota and Wisconsin at Rec Hall. Teammate Micha Hancock earned Setter of the Week laurels for the second time in a row with 12.50 assists per set vs. the Gophers and Badgers. NU's Caleigh Ryan as named B1G Freshman of the Week on Monday, as well.
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