Northwestern’s Volleyball MVP: Temi Thomas-Ailara

You clicked on this article to read about one person: Temi Thomas-Ailara. In 2022, Northwestern Women’s Volleyball had arguably its best season under Head Coach Shane Davis, and he has TTA to thank for most of that success. 

In terms of her season accolades, Thomas-Ailara ranked second in the Big Ten in kills and kills per set. Her tremendous numbers led to her winning three Big Ten Player of the Week awards, while also earning her third First Team All-Big Ten honors, a miraculous feat considering the plethora of volleyball talent in the conference. 

TTA hit the ground running as soon as the season started, racking up 13.66 kills a game across the 12 non-conference games. The six-foot-two outside hitter concluded the non-conference slate with a masterclass against Loyola Chicago, scoring 25.5 points via 24 kills. 

Once Big Ten play rolled around in late September, Thomas-Ailara kept on rolling. Despite two early losses to Wisconsin and Illinois, the ‘Cats went on the road and upset #7 Minnesota, their first-ever road victory against a top ten opponent. The Chicago-native led the squad with 17 kills, continuing her role as the star of the team. 

When Thomas-Ailara was in top form, the ‘Cats found true success. From October 21 to October 30, Northwestern went on a four-game win streak which included a win over #12 Purdue. In this nine-day period, Thomas-Ailara averaged a staggering 20.3 kills per game. 

Following the win streak, the good times came to a halt for the ‘Cats, despite the heroics of Thomas-Ailara. Northwestern went on a seven-game losing streak from November 4 to November 23. 

Thomas-Ailara had her best game of the season during the rough patch, where she notched a season-high 26 kills in a thriller against #4 Nebraska, with Northwestern losing a heartbreaker in the fifth set. Regardless of the opposition, Thomas-Ailara showed up and played with spirit night in and night out. 

The ‘Cats and Thomas-Ailara ended the season on a high, with a home sweep against in-state rival Illinois where Thomas-Ailara had 12 kills. 

Simply put, Thomas-Ailara was the foundation of this squad. Her ability to jump out the building and hit the ball with ferocious velocity made her a force to be reckoned with every single night. 

However, it wasn’t just her on-court performance. Thomas-Ailara was the vocal leader for a ‘Cats squad that had a mix of experienced and inexperienced talent. Without her ethos and desire for victory, the ‘Cats may have never found the success they did this year. 

In her four years as a Wildcat, TTA has established herself as one of the best players in program history. She added to her resume this year, finishing the 2022 campaign as the record holder for Kills Per Set (minimum 1,000 att.) and fifth all-time in total kills. 

On February 1st, Thomas-Ailara decided to take the next step in her volleyball career and use her last year of eligibility at Wisconsin. Northwestern will need a lot of development from many key players if they want any chance at matching the production of Thomas-Ailara.

 Temi Time will always be a legend at Welsh-Ryan Arena, both for her phenomenal work this year and in years past, and she will be sorely missed by the Wildcat faithful.