Nov. 26, 2013
The Last Meeting
October 23, 2013
'Cats Claw Back and Topple Illinois, 3-2
Facing a two-set deficit at intermission for the fifth time this season, the Northwestern Wildcats dug deep and roared all the way back to knock off instate rival Illinois in five thrilling sets, 3-2.
-- As Northwestern makes a final push toward postseason play, the Wildcats will charge down I-57 to Champaign, Ill., where it will to take on No. 18 Illinois Wednesday night, Nov. 27, inside historic Huff Hall at 7 p.m.
Northwestern enjoyed its best Big Ten road trip since 2009 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).
Alone at the Top
Outside hitter Stephanie Holthus made program history on Saturday, Nov. 2 when she became Northwestern's all-time leader in kills. After opening the season 10th on the all-time list in kills, Holthus surpassed Janine Makar (1985-'88) against Nebraska on Nov. 2 and now sits on top of the list with 1,774 and counting. Over that same weekend, the Elgin, Ill., native also moved past Shelley Brzozowski (1986-'89) and into seventh place on NU's all-time list with 1,331 career digs. Entering this week, Holthus ranks first all-time, just ahead of Erika Lange (2000-03), with 3.77 kills per set in her career.
Protect This House
The Wildcats have done a good job of protecting their home court at Welsh-Ryan Arena this season. The 'Cats are 11-4 in Evanston this season with the wins coming against Columbia, Belmont, Boise State, South Florida, Miami (OH), IUPUI, Iowa, No. 17 Ohio State, (rv) Illinois, No. 18 Purdue and Indiana. Northwestern's losses have come against ranked foes - 12th-ranked Nebraska on Sept. 27, No. 4 Penn State on Oct. 20, No. 13 Michigan State on Nov. 8 and No. 17 Michigan on Nov. 10. The 'Cats have reached 11 home wins only two other times under head coach Keylor Chan, in 2010 and 2007. The school record for 17 home wins in a season belongs to the 1984 Big Ten Champion squad. In 2012, the 'Cats won just five of its 13 home matches.
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 the triumph over Indiana on Sunday, the Wildcats have won six five-set matches in one season for the first time ever in the Keylor Chan era (since 2000). NU dropped only its second five-setter of the season on Nov. 2 at Nebraska.
Wildcats Welcome Class of 2018
Northwestern signed three talented high school seniors to National Letters of Intent on Wednesday, Nov. 13. Outside hitter Symone Abbott (Northville, Mich./Northville), middle blocker Garbrielle Hazen (Columbia City, Ind./Columbia City) and setter Taylor Tashima (Wilmette, Ill./New Trier) all signed on the dotted line last week. Hazen and Tashima were listed prominently on PrepVolleyball.com's Top Senior Aces list, while Abbott is her school's all-time leader in kills and is regarded as one of the top players from the state of Michigan.
2013 Record: 15-13, 11-7 Big Ten, ranked No. 18 in this week's AVCA top 25 coaches poll
Series History: Illinois leads, 50-28
Last NU win: Oct. 23, 2013 at Welsh-Ryan Arena (3-2)
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 (3.96 kps, 2.18 dps, 0.63 bps); Liz McMahon, Jr. OH (3.11 kps, 0.79 bps); Jennifer Beltran, Sr. L (4.15 dps, 1.02 aps)
Notable: The last three matches played between Northwestern and Illinois have gone lasted the maximum five sets. After dropping both 2012 contests in five, the Wildcats finally got over the hump with a victory earlier this season at Welsh-Ryan Arena. The Illini won the first two sets on October 23, but the 'Cats came back to capture the next three stanzas to earn a crucial Big Ten victory.
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