Oct. 25, 2013
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern will close the first half of its Big Ten schedule on Sunday, Oct. 27 with a matinee affair against No. 7 Minnesota at the Sports Pavilion in Minneapolis. This will be the lone regular season contest between the 'Cats and Gophers this fall.
Northwestern enjoyed its best Big Ten road trip since 2009 last time out on Oct. 11-12. The 'Cats knocked off both Indiana and No. 20 Purdue in five sets to complete their first 2-0 weekend in Big Ten play on the road since October 30-31, 2009. Ironically, those two wins were also against Purdue (3-2 on 10/30) and Indiana (3-1 on 10/31). Furthermore it was the first time since November 26-27, 2004 that the Wildcats won a pair of five-set matches during a Big Ten trip. Of course, those victories came against Indiana (11/26) and Purdue (11/27).
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 Erika Lange (2000-'03) against Illinois on Oct. 23 and now sits in second place with 1,628 kills. She needs only 38 kills to catch Janine Makar (1985-'88), who is currently the program's all-time leader. During Wednesday's thrilling victory against the Illini, the Burlington, Ill., native also moved past Stacey Kammes (1989-'92) and into ninth place with 1,229 career digs. Entering this week, Holthus ranks first all-time, just ahead of Lange, with 3.75 kills per set in her career.
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 nine complete thus far (Oklahoma, Hawai'i, Nebraska, Michigan, Michigan State, Purdue, Ohio State, Penn State and Illinois). Sunday's foe, Minnesota, jumped from 10th to seventh this week. Northwestern received votes in the AVCA top 25 coaches poll this week for the first time this season. The Wildcats also jumped up to No. 42 in the latest RPI that was released on Oct. 21.
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 Wednesday's triumph over instate rival Illinois, the Wildcats have won five five-set matches in one season for the first time ever in the Keylor Chan era (since 2000).
2013 Record: 18-4, 6-3 Big Ten, ranked No. 7 in this week's AVCA top 25 coaches poll
Series History: Minnesota leads, 49-18
Last NU win: Oct. 28, 2011 at Welsh-Ryan Arena (3-0)
Last MINN win: Oct. 26, 2012 at Sports Pavilion (3-0)
Head Coach: Hugh McCutcheon (BYU, '93)
Top Performers: Tori Dixon, Sr. MB (3.91 kps, .408 pct, 1.31 bps); Ashley Wittman, Sr. OH (3.27 kps, .303 pct, 3.11 dps); Daly Santana, So. OH (2.80 kps, 2.75 dps, 28 aces).
Notable: Minnesota's Ashley Wittman and NU's Stephanie Holthus are members of an exclusive club. The senior outside hitters are two of five players nationally to have amassed more than 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs in their respective careers. Holthus also ranks fourth amongst active players in kills, while Wittman is sixth on that list.
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