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Volleyball: ‘Cats start season with program-best 11-1 record

Northwestern rolled through its invitational schedule.

Desiree Becker attacks for a kill against the Blue Demons.
Photo courtesy of @NUVball on Twitter.

Northwestern volleyball has played in 12 games so far this season, losing only one against Washington by a score of 3-1. Its 11-1 start is the best in program history. The Wildcats were able to win six games with just three sets each.

Last weekend Northwestern played in the Chicago Cup at University of Illinois Chicago, where it won its first game against DePaul 3-1 on Friday. In their double header on Saturday, the ‘Cats won 3-0 against UIC and 3-2 against Loyola.

In its game against the Blue Demons, Northwestern lost the first set 25-23 after a six-point DePaul lead and multiple tied scores. It came back in the remaining sets, with a 25-23 win with 16 kills to tie the match in the second set and a 25-21 win in the third set with another 16 kills. The ‘Cats finished out the game in the fourth quarter, crushing the Blue Demons 25-16, with a 11-point lead for a portion of the set. Junior Alexa Rousseau set a career-high 11 kills and season-high 44 assists, and senior Temi Thomas-Ailara had 19 kills. Defensively, Northwestern set a season best 68 digs, 19 from fifth-year Megan Miller.

The second game at the Chicago Cup was against UIC. After gaining a 4-3 lead in the first set, Northwestern went on to win the set and the following two to clinch the game victory. UIC put up a fight, especially in the third and last set where there were two lead changes and 10 ties throughout. Thomas-Ailara led the team in kills and assists, with 14 and 31 respectively.

In its first five set win of the season, Northwestern won the first, third and fifth set. The ‘Cats started out with a win with a 25-15 score but lost the second to the Ramblers at 25-23. In the third set, they played a strong offense to win 25-12 and have a .407 attack percentage. While they lost the fourth set 25-16, the Wildcats were able to win the match with an 18-16 fifth set.

Rousseau was awarded Big Ten Setter of the Week after racking up 1.5 kills per set and 10.33 assists per set. Thomas-Ailara was also named the conference’s Player of the Week with 4.75 kills per set and a .311 hitting percentage. In two of the non-conference tournaments, Thomas-Ailara received all-tournament honors, with Rousseau, Desiree Becker, Ellee Stinson and Megan Miller being named to the all-tournament team once each in the invitationals. Previously in the season, Hanna Lesiak received player of the week after the Golden Eagle Invitational, where she also was on the all-tournament team.

The ‘Cats will start their conference play by heading to Madison on Friday to play against #6 Wisconsin at 7 p.m. on B1G+. Northwestern will travel to UIUC on Saturday and Minnesota next Wednesday before returning to Welsh-Ryan on Oct. 1 for a game against Michigan at 7 p.m.