It wasn’t the best welcome for a top-ranked team.
With about a month until the new Welsh-Ryan Arena opens, Northwestern and Minnesota volleyball had to face off in Evanston Township High School’s Beardsley Gymnasium, where the Wildcats played last season. But the fifth-ranked Golden Gophers (11-2, 5-0) got the job done regardless, defeating the ’Cats (10-7, 0-5) in three sets: 25-19, 25-17, and 25-15. It was the fifth-straight loss for Northwestern, who have now already faced three ranked Big Ten teams.
Northwestern’s only lead throughout the night came at the beginning of the first set, but it was quickly erased by Minnesota. The ’Cats tried to claw their way back various times throughout the sets, but the Gophers broke away from the threats. Northwestern’s rally climaxed when, during set two with a 12-11 deficit almost evened, first-year libero Michelle Lee wasn’t able to come away with the crucial tying dig as the ball hit the court. From there, Minnesota would finish off the set on a 12-6 run to thwart the comeback.
The defensive advantage belonged to Minnesota throughout the game, as they held Northwestern to hit .117 (compared to their own .390) and out-dug them 40-26. Standouts for the Wildcats in the losing effort included sophomores Nia Robinson (240 hitting %, and team-highs of 10 kills and 6 digs), and Britt Bommer (29 assists).
The schedule ahead for the team is tough, with three straight road games against ranked teams (as of 10/1). The first stop for the ’Cats is south in Champaign against Illinois (14-2, 3-2), where they’ll look to pull off an upset to get their first conference win of the season.