Aug. 27, 2010
CHICAGO - After an extremely competitive opening set, Loyola fell victim to Northwestern's size, dropping a 3-0 (25-23, 25-12, 25-15) decision to the Wildcats in the season opener for both teams at the Chicago Classic hosted by DePaul.
"I was very happy with how we came out," said head coach Marcie Wolbeck. "If we can gain some consistency and play how we did in that first set for the rest of the season, we will be a pretty good volleyball team. I thought their size was a big factor and we might not have been as aggressive as we needed to be over the last two sets."
The teams opened the match trading points before Northwestern was able to move out to a slight lead. The Ramblers hung tough, never trailing by more than three points, before making a run midway through the set. A pair of Karen Sueppel kills highlighted a four-point spurt on the serve of Melissa Hastings that pulled LU even at 16-all. Loyola kept its foot on the gas and consecutive Colleen Francis kills capped a larger 7-1 run that gave the Ramblers a 19-17 lead. However, two blocking errors and two more hitting errors helped fuel a 6-1 NU run that pushed the Wildcats to the brink with a 23-20 lead. Back-to-back Francis kills helped the Ramblers stave off one set point and pull within one (24-23) but Northwestern cashed in on its second opportunity, closing out a 25-23, opening-set win on a Stephanie Holthus kill.
Kills from Francis, Mallory Curran and Natalie Pounovich helped Loyola get off to a solid start in the second set and the frame was tied at nine - following a block from Pounovich and Hastings - before Northwestern took control. Seven straight points on the serve of Alex Ayers helped NU open a sizable, 16-9 lead and the Ramblers were not able to recover, dropping the second set by a 25-12 count.
Even with an intermission, Loyola was unable to slow the momentum as Northwestern came out hot in the third set, opening leads of 6-1 and 13-3 to take command. The Ramblers kept fighting, reeling off four straight points midway through the set to get within 15-8, and another four-point spurt later got them as close as six but it was too little, too late as Holthus, again, did the honors, closing out the match with a kill.
After hitting a respectable .227 in the opening set, the Ramblers slumped to finish at .130 for the match, a number caused, in part, by 11 blocks by Northwestern's tall front row.
Pounovich led the way for the Ramblers with nine kills and a pair of blocks (1 BS, 1 BA). Francis added seven kills and 10 digs while Sueppel added six kills. Junior libero Cat Languido dug a team-best 11 balls to key LU's back row while freshman setter Natalie Fiore had a nice night in her first collegiate match, finishing with 29 assists.
"I think this was a solid performance by Natalie (Fiore), considering she's a freshman starting her first collegiate match against a team as solid as Northwestern," said Wolbeck. "Colleen played well, particularly in the back row, but there are plenty of things for us to do better when we get out there tomorrow. I know we are all ready to get back on the floor and get that first win under our belt."
Loyola will wrap up tournament play tomorrow, facing the loser of tonight's UIC/DePaul match at 5 p.m. at McGrath Arena.