The Briar Cliff women’s volleyball team had a daunting task on Wednesday night, traveling to Orange City, Iowa to take on undefeated Northwestern. The Chargers went toe-to-toe with the Red Raiders for much of the night, but eventually #2 Northwestern took the match 3-1 (25-21, 21-25, 25-20, 25-15).
“I thought we played well throughout the match,” said BC head coach Lindsey Weatherford. “Northwestern is a great team and we stuck with them all night with our relentless pursuit.”
The first stayed close throughout as the Cliff had a pair of leads but never got up more than two points as a 5-1 run by the Red Raiders midway through the game proved to be the difference as Northwestern took the set 25-21.
The second set was controlled by the Blue and Gold thanks to five consecutive points early. The Chargers evened the match at 1 with a 25-21 victory. After heading to the locker rooms, however, Northwestern got the momentum back with seven of the first eight points in set three. The Chargers were never able to get square with the home squad in the third set and went to the fourth set trailing 2-1 after a 25-20 set score.
Aubury Coleman‘s strong play early in set four made it look like Briar Cliff could force a fifth set, something the Red Raiders have not dealt with in conference play. Coleman had a string of three straight kills to put BC up 6-3. Northwestern responded with nine of the next 12 points en route to the most lopsided set score of the night at 25-15.
Coleman finished with eight kills on the night to finish third among BC attackers. Noel Phillips had 10 kills but Victoria Gonzalez was the strongest weapon for the Blue and Gold. Gonzalez had a game-high 14 kills and was easily the most efficient hitter for BC, ending the night with an attack rate of .324.
“Victoria was unstoppable on the outside tonight,” Weatherford noted. “Her court awareness and visibility is unlike many hitters at this level. She was able to score at will during points of the game and she always gives us a little spark when we need it.”
Leading the Red Raider attack was the trio of Anna Wedel, Bekah Horstman and AJ Kacmarynski. Wedel and Horstman each had 12 kills whiell Kacmarynski finished with 10. Horstman had her dozen kills on just 17 attacks with one error for a swing rate of .647. As a team, Northwestern outhit the Cliff .321 to .108.
Lacey Wacker was credited with all 47 assists for Northwestern, while Briar Cliff split the setting responsibility with Delaney Meyer having the most effective night passing with 28 of the Cliff’s 40 assists. Northwestern outblocked BC 13-6 as Emily Van Ginkel led all players with eight blocks. Grace Whitlaw led the Charger defense with four blocks.
The Red Raiders also held the edge in digs by a 47-36 margin. Northwestern’s Jadeyn Schutt led all players with 18 digs. Briar Cliff was led in digs by Grace Hanno with 13. Hanno played libero for the Cliff and was active on defense all night.
“Grace consistently dug hard hit balls all night,” Weatherford said. “She’s very consistent in that area for us.”
Briar Cliff was stronger on the serve than Northwestern on the night as the Chargers had four aces with five errors. Northwestern totaled three aces compared to 10 service errors. Meyer and Maureen Imrie each recorded two service aces on the night.
Northwestern improved to 20-0 on the season and 8-0 in the GPAC with the win while Briar Cliff moves to 13-10 overall and 3-6 in league play. The Chargers take on Mayville State in a nonconference matchup this Friday in Mayville, N.D. First serve is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.