Editor’s note: Each week, WNUR Sports recaps the news and results from the in-season, non-revenue teams that we cover in order to help our listeners and readers stay connected to the pulse of Northwestern athletics. For football coverage, check out this week’s game recap HERE. Teams are discussed in alphabetical order.
By Kevin Sweeney
11/15: WIN vs UIC 87-44
11/18: WIN @ Florida 83-74 (OT)
Women’s basketball continued its hot start to the season this week with a pair of wins, pushing their overall record to 4-0. They opened the week with a blowout victory over a rebuilding UIC program coached by former Northwestern assistant coach Tasha Pointer, putting together a balanced performance with seven players posting six or more points. Lindsey Pulliam led the way for the Wildcats with 22 points in just 24 minutes, while a trio of role players in Bryana Hopkins, Byrdy Galernik, and Jess Sancataldo all had breakout performances. Hopkins posted 14 points and 7 rebounds, while Galernik returned to the rotation after barely playing in the season’s first two games with 8 points and 9 assists compared to just one turnover. Meanwhile, Australian freshman Jess Sancataldo provided a spark off the bench with 10 points in just seven minutes of action, including a pair of threes.
Next came a trip to sunny Gainesville, where Northwestern took on a winless Florida club. The Gators didn’t look like a team still searching for its win on Sunday, though, as they controlled the game for most of the way and led by as much as 11 with under 3:14 to go. The Wildcats fought back, stringing together stops on the defensive end and finding their offensive rhythm in the late stages of the game. Pulliam (22 points) hit a pull-up jumper with under a minute to play to cap an 11-0 run that tied the game before a Kristina Moore bucket for Florida gave the Gators back the lead. Sophomore guard Jordan Hamilton, who had 16 points in the game, responded with a floating layup with less than one second left to send things to overtime, and it was all Wildcats in the extra period. Pallas Kunaiyi-Akpanah had a double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds, while Abi Scheid posted 18 points and 8 rebounds in the winning effort.
The Wildcats return to action on Sunday to take on UT-Martin at Welsh-Ryan Arena.
11/14: LOSS vs #4 Illinois
11/17: LOSS @ #7 Penn State
Dealing with the rigors of the always-challenging Big Ten, Shane Davis’ club dropped a pair of matches against highly-ranked opponents this week. First up was a disappointing home loss against Illinois in which the Wildcats were handled comfortably in every set. After hanging in early, Northwestern struggled to get any traction in the match and dropped all three sets handily to the Fighting Illini. Abryanna Cannon led the way for Northwestern with six kills and four digs, while Britt Bommer chipped in 15 assists from the setter position.
The Wildcats then headed to Happy Valley to take on their second top-10 team of the week. After a brutal first set in which the Wildcats fell 25-6, Northwestern was much more competitive in the final two sets. They posted their best hitting percentage of the night in the third set, in which they pushed the Nittany Lions to 25-17. Nia Robinson had 11 kills in the losing effort for the Wildcats.
Northwestern concludes the regular season this week with a pair of matches, first taking on Michigan in Ann Arbor on November 21 before returning home for a Black Friday showdown with Indiana. With an RPI that has plummeted to 67th nationally, an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament doesn’t appear to be in the cards.
However, Northwestern has a chance to be selected for the NVIC (the volleyball equivalent of the NIT) as an at-large team. Per the tournament’s website, “Any team considered for an at-large berth must either have an overall record of .500 or better, or must be top 50 NCAA RPI.” Northwestern’s RPI won’t be in the top 50, and sit 15-15 on the season. This means that in order to be considered for the NVIC, Northwestern must at least split the season’s final two games.
The Wildcats lost to Michigan 3-0 at home earlier this season and dropped a 4-setter in Bloomington against the Hoosiers to open Big Ten play in September. Finishing .500 or better would be a nice step forward for a Wildcat program in its 3rd season under Shane Davis, and reaching the postseason would provide great experience for this young team as they develop for the future.