Volleyball defeats Rutgers in straight sets
By Josh Fleckner
The Wildcats scored their first Big Ten win Friday night, swiftly dealing with Rutgers in three sets. Opening with a strong 25-19, the Cats held control of the match enough to eke out consecutive 25-23 wins in the final two sets.
The star of the night was undoubtedly outside hitter Temi Thomas-Aliara, who stood out in just about every aspect of the game. She led the team with 16 kills and seven blocks, in addition to co-leading in digs with 11. While she only had one ace on the night, her power and topspin challenged the returner each time. She was notably subbed off for what proved to be the final play of the match, but she’d certainly earned her rest.
Thomas-Aliara by no means had the only strong performance of the night for the ‘Cats. Middle Tatyana Hardwick was the epitome of efficiency, with six blocks and a hitting percentage of .333 and libero Megan Miller held down the back with 11 digs while doling out eight assists. First-year defensive specialist Ellee Stinson acted wise beyond her years, confidently communicating with her teammates on the floor. Setter Alexa Rousseau had another solid night feeding it right to her hitters’ sweet spots.
There was certainly room for improvement, as it took outside hitter Hanna Lesiak a set or two to find her form, and although she shaped up by the closing set of the match, she finished with seven kills to six errors.
While the ‘Cats certainly put up a stellar performance in this matchup, they were aided by the blunders of their opponent. Rutgers’ right side Beka Kojadinovic, who co-led her team with 24 attempts on the night, had a lackluster three kills and eight errors – but to her credit, she also served an impressive four aces, making for a rather mismatched stat-line.
Northwestern clearly benefited from the momentum of this win, as they took No. 7 ranked Minnesota to five sets in Saturday’s David and Goliath matchup, unfortunately losing the last three. It remains to be seen whether the ‘Cats can shape up against more Big Ten rivals in the future, but Friday’s Rutgers game was certainly a step in the right direction.