After beating Indiana in a marathon 3-2 win on Friday, Northwestern volleyball (12-6, 2-4 B1G) fell to No. 18 Purdue 3-0 despite leading the first set 20-12.
Entering the weekend at 11-5, Northwestern looked to build on it success this season after going 1-1 last week.
“I like the fight this weekend overall,” coach Shane Davis said. “I liked the fact that we were fighting through most of the match; we were down and we came back. I really liked seeing that over the weekend.”
While battling back against Indiana, senior setter Taylor Tashima produced 59 assists and two aces, while senior outside hitter Symone Abbott went for 29 kills on .319 hitting. The Wildcats took the first set against the Hoosiers 25-21 before losing the next two 25-22 and 25-20 respectively.
In a seemingly-endless fourth set, Northwestern came out on top 34-32 to survive another set. The team would close out the win in the fifth and final set 15-8 behind key play from seniors Nia Robinson (16 kills) and Gabby Hazen (eight kills).
Thriving off the momentum from the five-set match, the Wildcats fought for a 20-12 lead against heavily-favored No. 18 Purdue.
“It was great we came out automatically without any reminders carrying over from Friday,” Abbott said. “I think we got so far ahead that we felt uncomfortable because we usually aren’t that far ahead against such great teams as Purdue.”
“It was kind of frustrating because we had them, we had them in that first set,” Hazen said. “I think it is a learning opportunity for us to learn how to play when we are ahead.”
Purdue quickly bounced back, going on a 6-0 run to make it a close match again. The Boilermakers would close out the set on a 15-5 run overall to give them the lead. After leading 20-12, Northwestern allowed Purdue to go on a 40-18 run through the next set and a half, going down 2-0 heading into set three.
“We couldn’t finish,” Davis said. “A lot of routine plays came our way and we found a way to make them really, really difficult for ourselves. I was trying to keep them relaxed. I didn’t want to put any extra pressure on them.”
Northwestern kept it close throughout the third set, but eventually dropped it 25-23, despite four ties and two lead changes. Northwestern hit .348 in the final set and .213 overall, while Purdue hit .430.
“We were afraid to lose it,” Hazen said. “We started to get a little timid. We were just waiting for them to make the error.”
For Hazen, the loss represents the greater atmosphere of Northwestern athletics self-identifying as underdogs.
“Northwestern culture, and this team, has been a Cinderella story coming back, but we can hang with these teams,” Hazen said. “They should be just as scared of us as we apparently are of them. It’s a culture piece we have to start believing in. We should be hanging with these teams, we are in the Big Ten for a reason, we are always in the top half. We need to change the culture.”
The Wildcats take the court again next Friday at 7 p.m. against Maryland.