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Checking in on Northwestern volleyball

It hasn’t been the start to the season that the ‘Cats have hoped for.

When they began their season just two and a half weeks ago, the Northwestern Wildcats had high hopes of getting off to a quick start. Unfortunately, they haven’t been able to get off on the right foot, as they currently sit at 3-5 overall.

The ‘Cats were initially scheduled to open their season against South Dakota on August 27. However, that match was cancelled due to COVID-19 issues within the Coyotes’ program. Instead, Northwestern opened with two back-to-back games against Northern Colorado and Colorado State, during which they lost against the former and won against the latter.

Their loss to Northern Colorado was a tough one. The Wildcats opened the match by taking the first set 25-19 before losing the second set 26-24. They would go on to lose the third set, win the fourth set and then fall by just two points in the final set, handing the Bears the match by a final score of 3-2.

After taking care of Colorado State 3-1, the ‘Cats travelled down to Las Cruces, New Mexico to partake in the Springhill Suites Invitational. They opened the invitational with a match against New Mexico State, during which the Wildcats were able to take both the second and third sets over the Aggies. However, Northwestern was unable to close out the match, losing the fourth and fifth sets by scores of 28-26 and 15-8.

Following their heartbreaking loss to New Mexico State, the ‘Cats made a quick trip out to El Paso, Texas for a duel with UTEP. Once again, they were unable to find their mojo, as they were swept by the Miners in three straight sets. NU closed out the Springhill Suites Invitational by heading by to Las Cruces to face Arizona, only to fall 3-2 in yet another difficult loss.

With the Springhill Suites Invitational behind them, Northwestern travelled north to Laramie, Wyo., to participate in the UNIWYO Invite. Here, the ‘Cats were finally able make a breakthrough and find some success. The ‘Cats opened their first of three matches against Missouri, who they promptly swept 3-0 in three somewhat close sets. Temi Thomas-Ailara, who got off to a bit of a slow start, led the way for Northwestern with 13 kills, while Megan Miller finished with an impressive 11 digs.

In their second game of the invite, this one against the hosting University of Wyoming, the Wildcats stayed hot. While their 3-1 victory over the Cowboys wasn’t a clean sweep, it was arguably more impressive, as the ‘Cats won their three sets by scores of 25-13, 25-14 and 25-11. Once again, Miller showed off, finishing with 19 digs. Meanwhile, Desiree Becker finished with seven blocks and Alexa Rousseau ended the match with an impressive 42 assists.

However, their momentum couldn’t last forever. In their final match of the UNIWYO Invite, the Wildcats fell 3-1 to UCSB. None of the sets they played were particularly competitive, aside from their first, which they lost 27-25. It was a somewhat disappointing end to the trip to Laramie, as the ‘Cats could have finished 3-0 before returning home back to Evanston.

While Northwestern now sits at 3-5, they will now play at home this Friday for the first time this season as a part of the Chicago Cup. In the span of just two days, the Wildcats will take on University of Illinois-Chicago, DePaul and Loyola-Chicago. Their match against UIC is scheduled for this Friday at 7 p.m. CT, and, once the Chicago Cup concludes, the ‘Cats will play their first conference game against Nebraska on Wednesday, Sept. 22.