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Northwestern volleyball post-mortem 2022: A tough end to a promising season

Despite a disappointing end-of season skid, Northwestern Volleyball finished with their best season in the last decade.

It may not have ended with an NCAA Tournament berth, but Northwestern Volleyball’s 2022 season was certainly one to remember.

After finishing the 2021 season 12-19, Northwestern Volleyball ended the 2022 campaign 18-14, marking its best finish in the last decade and the best in the Shane Davis era.

The Wildcats posted marquee wins against some of the best teams in the country, including then-No. 7 Minnesota in Minneapolis and 12th-ranked Purdue. The match against the Golden Gophers was the program’s first-ever road takedown of a top 10 team.

Unfortunately, the ‘Cats hit a slump at the worst time. Following the upset of Purdue and a sweep of Iowa, Northwestern dropped seven straight matches before sweeping Illinois in the season finale. The losing streak was ultimately the nail in the coffin for a season that started so promisingly.

Other accolades for the program this season include the highest RPI, six weeks receiving votes in the AVCA poll and the most Big Ten players of the week in the last two decades.

It’s hard to express just how important senior OH Temi Thomas-Ailara has been to the ‘Cats success. She earned her third First Team All-Big Ten Honors, also an incredibly impressive feat in arguably the toughest conference in college volleyball, after leading the conference in total kills (502) and ranking second in kills per set (4.33). She also earned three Big Ten Player of the Week awards this season, the most in a single season in program history.

First-year Kathryn Randorf earned Big Ten accolades, being selected to the All-Big Ten Freshman team, the first since Thomas-Ailara in 2019. She ranked third on the team, averaging 2.44 kills per set, and had a career-high six blocks in the win over No. 12 Purdue.

The future is certainly bright for this program, with Randorf leading the way alongside junior setter Alexa Rousseau, who missed some time with injury, but still led the team in assists with 813.

However, the departure of fifth-year libero Megan Miller will be a tough loss for the program. While she started her career at Big Ten powerhouse Nebraska, she was a stalwart on the back line for the ‘Cats these past three seasons. She also became only one of five Big Ten athletes to eclipse 1,000 digs.

While a tough pill to swallow, ‘Cats fans could see the departure of Thomas-Ailara to another program with one season of eligibility remaining.

Likely due to the depth of the Big Ten, which currently has six teams going to the postseason, Northwestern was not able to crack the NCAA tournament bubble. Of those six teams, a staggering five earned top five national seeds, with Wisconsin a No. 1 seed and Minnesota and Nebraska No. 2 seeds.

All this is to say that yet another women’s sports team at Northwestern is certainly on their way up, and ‘Cats fans should be excited to se this program develop. For good measure, here’s a snippet of Northwestern’s biggest win this season: