Oct. 22, 2013
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern will put a bow on a three-match homestand Wednesday night when its rival from downstate, Illinois, comes to Welsh-Ryan Arena for an important Big Ten battle. Both teams are seeking to secure their fifth win in conference play as they strive to break away from the middle of the pack.
The 'Cats are Climbing
For the first time this season, Northwestern is receiving votes in the weekly AVCA top 25 coaches poll. The Wildcats garnered seven votes this week, a number that would unofficially put them around No. 36. NU is listed at No. 42 in the NCAA RPI that was released Monday, up 17 spots from the previous week.
Northwestern has used four true freshmen on the court at various times this season. Newcomer Kayla Morin has started all 20 matches and played in all 76 games as an outside hitter for the Wildcats. After entering the floor in the second match of the season against Oklahoma, setter Caleigh Ryan has played in all 69 sets and started all 18 matches since. Middle blocker Maddie Slater has appeared in 50 sets this season with 12 starts under her belt. Rafae Strobos played in three sets and made her first collegiate start at Hawai'i on Sept. 13. In fact, all four freshmen started against the Rainbow Wahine, joining veterans Stephanie Holthus and Savannah Paffen on the floor to begin that match.
|Inside Northwestern Volleyball|
The Wildcats are facing 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 eight complete thus far (Oklahoma, Hawai'i, Nebraska, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Ohio State and Penn State). Wednesday's opponent, Illinois, received nine votes this week, while Sunday's foe, Minnesota, jumped from 10th to seventh this week.
Going the Distance
After becoming one of the last teams in the country to play a five-set match in 2012, Northwestern checked that off its list on opening night in 2013. This year, decisive sets were required in two of the team's first three matches after going five games only three times all of last season. With Friday night's victory at Indiana and Saturday's triumph at Purdue, the Wildcats have won four five-set matches in one season for the first time since the 2007 campaign. Northwestern and Illinois played a pair of five-set matches in 2012 with the Illini winning both tilts.
2013 Record: 8-10, 4-4 Big Ten, receiving votes in this week's AVCA top 25 coaches poll
Series History: Illinois leads, 50-27
Last NU win: Nov. 5, 2010 at Welsh-Ryan Arena (3-0)
Last ILL win: Nov. 21, 2012 at Welsh-Ryan Arena (3-2)
Head Coach: Kevin Hambly (Illinois, '06)
Top Performers: Jocelynn Birks, R-So. OH (3.83 kps, 2.19 dps, 0.54 bps); Liz McMahon, Jr. OH (3.03 kps, 0.71 bps); Jennifer Beltran, Sr. L (3.70 dps, 1.00 aps,); Anna Dorn R-Jr. MB (.320 atk %, 0.84 bps)
Notable: Illinois has played the most difficult schedule in the country this season according to the NCAA RPI. They have faced nine teams in the top 25 and another nine between 26-50.
To view the complete notes packages for both Northwestern and Illinois, please download the PDFs at the top of the page.
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