Dec. 17, 2007
Final 2007 Weekly Release (PDF Format)
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern closed the book on its 2007 season sooner than it thought it would, but that certainly did not mean the season's story was not a good one. Led by one of the most accomplished senior classes in program history, the Wildcats set several records en route to the second-best record in head coach Keylor Chan's eight-year tenure.
Northwestern turned in an 18-13 mark in 2007, tying for the second-most wins and setting the second-best winning percentage (.581) in the Chan era. The season was a roller coaster from the start, with an eight-match winning streak immediately preceding a seven-match losing skid before an even stronger finish to the year.
The Wildcats opened the year as hosts of the Chicago Challenge, sweeping matches against Loyola (Chicago) and Illinois-Chicago to capture the championship. Senior Courtnie Paulus (Belgium, Wis./Ozaukee) earned Tournament MVP honors, while senior Lindsay Anderson (Wilmette, Ill./New Trier) and sophomore Kate Nobilio (Johnsburg, Ill./Johnsburg) picked up All-Tournament team nods.
Northwestern then ventured west for the LMU Four Points Sheraton LAX Classic, falling to perennial power Loyola Marymount and Mountain West champion UNLV before defeating 2006 NCAA Tournament participant UC Santa Barbara. Paulus again was named to the All-Tournament team.
The Wildcats followed the West Coast visit with a trip to the East, sweeping all three opponents at the Georgetown Classic. Most notably, Nobilio set the school's three-game single-match digs record with 31 on Sept. 8 against Towson. Anderson notched her second All-Tournament team selection of the season with the MVP nod, while Nobilio and freshman Brittani Gray (Cincinnati, Ohio/Sycamore) earned All-Tournament honors.
At the 26th Annual Wildcat Classic, Northwestern continued to roll with sweeps of Drake and Western Michigan before winning a four-game match against 2006 NCAA team Saint Louis. The game three loss to the Billikens ended a streak of 18-consecutive games won, the best school streak since winning 20 straight in 1998. At the Classic, Paulus and junior Chelsy Hyser (Belvidere, Ill./Belvidere) won All-Tournament accolades alongside MVP Nobilio.
Nobilio also was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week following the Wildcat Classic.
Northwestern opened the Big Ten season with a huge road win at No. 23 Ohio State, picking up its first victory in the conference-season opener since 2002 and winning in Columbus for the first time since 2003. Life got tough for the 'Cats after that, with NU dropping its next seven matches in a row.
Clinging to its NCAA Tournament hopes, and an above-.500 record at 10-9, Northwestern got busy. Wins over No. 13 Minnesota and No. 20 Michigan helped propel a five-match winning streak that was the catalyst behind NU's 8-4 finish over the season's final 12 matches. Also included in that stretch was a four-match home winning streak, NU's first in Big Ten play since 1984.
The Wildcats entered the final weekend of the year with a shot at finishing third in the conference with two wins, but in the rough-and-tumble Big Ten, NU split its final matches and instead ended up in seventh place with a 9-11 record.
Included in the Wildcats' push over the final third of the season were victories over the Wolverines and the Spartans of Michigan State, the fifth- and sixth-place teams in the Big Ten who would eventually earn spots in the Round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament. Big Ten champion Penn State went on to win the national title.
Despite Northwestern's impressive body of work over the course of the season, including a strong finish with several marquee wins in one of the nation's top two conferences, the NCAA committee opted to leave the Wildcats at home come tourney time. NU is the first Big Ten program in the last seven years to finish at least five games over .500 and not receive an at-large berth into the field of 64.
Though the Wildcats were snubbed for the Tournament and by the Big Ten coaches for several postseason honors, NU did notch several significant achievements on the year.
Hyser was named an All-Region selection by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA), Northwestern's first such honoree since Erika Lange in 2002. Hyser was stellar on the season, finishing among the Big Ten's best in hitting percentage (.316) and blocks (1.21 per game). Hyser's .316 hitting percentage is the third-best single-season total in school history.
Hyser won the AVCA honor despite being left off the All-Big Ten team by coaches who made some mystifying decisions in 2007. The panel deservedly chose Michigan's Stesha Selsky (the Big Ten's leading digger who finished 11th in the nation in digs per game) as the conference's Defensive Player of the Year, but did not bestow All-Big Ten accolades on her -- not even honorable mention. Nobilio, who finished second to Selsky with Northwestern single-season records for total digs (603) and digs per game (5.69), also was left off the All-Big Ten team. The only libero or defensive specialist to win any All-Big Ten accolades finished in the bottom half of the conference in digs.
Despite the lack of recognition from the conference, Nobilio will anchor Northwestern's team and will be the Big Ten's top returning libero in 2008 for the second-consecutive season following the graduation of Selsky. Nobilio had the most digs of any returning libero in conference matches entering the 2007 season. She has 1,111 so far in her two-year career, good for ninth on the NU all-time list.
In another interesting note, Nobilio combined with her older sister, Brittany, a senior at Eastern Kentucky, to make 1,158 digs this year, the most of any siblings in the NCAA. Brittany averaged 6.03 digs per game with 555 spread over 92 games in 2007.
Northwestern's 2007 senior class had some huge accomplishments to cap off careers in which all four of them saw significant minutes as freshmen in 2004. Paulus became the seventh Wildcat in school history to reach 1,000-career kills and 1,000-career digs. She finished No. 12 all-time at NU with 1,201 kills and tied for No. 11 with 1,013 digs.
Paulus had career highs for kills (315) and digs (295) in her final season.
Anderson is the fourth 'Cat in program history to notch more than 1,500 kills in her four years at Northwestern. Anderson ended up No. 4 on NU's career chart with 1,516 after setting the school record for most-career attacks with 4,470. She also was just 18 digs shy of notching 1,000 in that category as well.
Anderson's 426 kills, 333 digs, 41 assists and 42 service aces in 2007 all established career bests for the four-year starter. Her 3.74 kills per game average ranks seventh in school single-season history.
Middle blocker Brittney Aldridge (Hampshire, Ill./Hampshire) lost her starting role early in 2007 after being a staple in the lineup during her first three seasons. The senior worked harder than ever to win her spot back, and ended up having the finest season of her career. Aldridge had a career-high .313 hitting percentage -- the fourth-best in school history -- while leading the team and ranking among the Big Ten leaders with 1.22 blocks per game.
Aldridge concluded her career ranked third at NU with 409 block assists and fifth with 465 total blocks. Her attitude in earning back her starting spot in 2007 won her Northwestern's Big Ten Sportsmanship honoree award.
Fifth-year senior Stephanie Jurivich (LaGrange, Ill./St. Ignatius) came back for her fifth season after already earning a degree in mathematics to pursue a master's degree in communications. Jurivich, who completed the very rare feat of earning four Academic All-Big Ten honors, started during the early part of the season before handing the setting reigns over and serving as a mentor to freshman setter Elyse Glab (Chicago, Ill./Resurrection).
Jurivich is one of eight Wildcats to notch more than 2,000-career assists (she finished with 2,108), despite only playing one full season as NU's primary setter in 2006. A right-side hitter in her first-collegiate campaign, Jurivich split time at setter in 2005 following an offseason injury.
Northwestern's youth also had a fantastic year in 2007. Glab compiled 1,209 assists in her debut season after taking over the starting setter spot five matches into the year. Her total ranks seventh in school single-season history. Gray finished fourth on the team with 2.70 kills per game after starting a string of 15 matches midway through the year.
Freshman middle blocker Naomi Johnson (Bloomington, Minn./Kennedy) earned starts on the right side in all 12 of NU's final matches during its 8-4 spurt to end the year, bringing another huge 6-foot-3 presence to the outside block alongside Aldridge. Johnson was fourth on the team with 0.86 blocks per game on the year, including a 0.98 average in her 12 starts.
Freshman Sabel Moffett (Temecula, Calif./Chaparral) was NU's most versatile athlete in 2007, filling in the lineup with starts as an outside hitter, right side and middle blocker during the year. Moffett was third on the team with 1.16 blocks per game.
Sophomore Emma Pollert (Seymour, Ind./Seymour) was one of the brightest spots of 2007. After not seeing any court action in her freshman campaign, Pollert worked her way into the lineup after making the most of limited early-season action. On Sept. 29 in her eighth-career game, Pollert donned the libero jersey in game three of a match against Illinois, making 11 digs to lead Northwestern in the category for the entire match.
Pollert eventually became a regular as a defensive specialist, even filling in at libero on Nov. 10 against Ohio State after an injury to Nobilio. Pollert made 27 digs in that victory over the Buckeyes, the fifth-best total for any 'Cat all season long.
Also earning time as a defensive specialist and substitute server was sophomore Ariel Baxterbeck (Menlo Park, Calif./Castilleja), who played in 57 games and averaged 1.61 digs per game. She reached double-digit digs on three different occasions.
With the depth at outside hitter for Northwestern, junior Kelly Keporos (Downers Grove, Ill./Downers Grove North) and freshman Lindsay Kresch (Moon Township, Pa./Moon Area) saw limited action during the season, but both did solid work in their opportunities. Keporos had a career-high five digs in a match against Towson on Sept. 8, while Kresch had six kills and four digs in her most extensive action during a match Oct. 13 at Indiana.
As a team, Northwestern set a single-season program record with 339.5 total blocks, while ranking fifth in school single-season history with a .214 hitting percentage and 748 hitting errors (the fifth lowest total in program history).
Chan recorded his 100th win at Northwestern on Sept. 7 against Georgetown, and now has led NU to winning records in four of the last six seasons. That record is quite impressive considering the Wildcats won just four matches the year before Chan's arrival in 2000, and had not had a winning campaign since 1990.
Northwestern also picked up eight Academic All-Big Ten honors, its most since 2002. Anderson, Baxterbeck, Hyser, Jurivich, Keporos, Moffett, Paulus and Pollert all won the award.
Now Chan and the 'Cats have their sights set on lofty goals for the coming year. After receiving no love from the powers that be in the postseason, the Wildcats are determined to leave no doubt in anyone's mind they are a Big Ten force to be reckoned with in 2008.