Up against a ranked Illinois team, Northwestern volleyball came into the game Saturday with the possibility of getting a conference upset (that could have only parallelled football’s takedown of Michigan State on the same day).
But unfortunately the odds were not on their side in Champaign, Illinois, as the Fighting Illini (15-2, 4-2) defeated the Wildcats (10-8, 0-6) in three straight sets: 25-13, 25-17, and 25-13. While Illinois snapped a two-game losing streak, Northwestern suffered its sixth straight defeat, all within conference, with four coming against ranked teams.
Despite their best efforts, the ’Cats saw the first two sets slip away from them midway in each. Northwestern held some ties and miniscule leads before either team reached double digits, but the top-ten Illini lived up to their reputation and established insurmountable leads (aided in set two by three straight Wildcat serving errors). The third set belonged to the home team much earlier on, and Illinois ended up handing Northwestern their seventh set loss in a row.
The Wildcats hit at a rough .034 percent clip on the back of 21 attack errors. Northwestern’s Nia Robinson had the most kills (nine) and errors (ten) for the team, while Michelle Lee finished with eight digs. For Illinois, junior Jacqueline Quade earned 11 kills, including seven in the first set, and senior Ali Bastianelli set a new school record for career blocks at 656 (five during the game).
Next up on Northwestern’s quest for a conference win are the Wisconsin Badgers (11-3, 4-2) and a rematch with the Minnesota Golden Gophers (12-2, 6-0), both of which are road games for the ’Cats.