After not dropping a set to Western Illinois since 2005, volleyball dropped the very first one it played against the Leathernecks Wednesday night at Victor E. Court.
NIU (3-2) ended up winning in five sets, but not before a grueling battle that forced both teams to the brink.
After dropping a first set for the first time this season, NIU came out and won two in a row and, until about midway through the frame, appeared to be coasting to a four-set victory. That’s when the momentum completely shifted.
WIU (2-2) went on to win seven straight points to end the fourth set and leave a deflated Huskie bunch stunned and looking for answers.
NIU went on a seven-point streak of its own in the fifth, taking a 10-3 lead, putting WIU in too big of a hole to rally out of. Senior Tori Halbur saved her best serving for the seven-point stretch, notching an ace along with two digs.
Sarah Angelos, another senior, also showed veteran leadership at the most crucial time of the match. She posted four kills on five swings in the fifth frame, leading the Huskies to a .474 hitting percentage in the final stretch.
“We knew we had to dig deep within ourselves and we knew every single person had to make a positive change in attitude, confidence level and play,” Angelos said. “Everyone did that and we pushed ourselves to that next level we needed to be at.”
Setter Alexis Gonzalez and outside hitter Mackenzie Roddy each posted double-doubles for the Huskies. Gonzalez tallied 44 assists and 10 digs while Roddy killed 14 balls with 16 digs.
Freshmen Jenna Radtke, Mary Grace Kelly and Paige Dacanay all contributed alongside their veteran teammates. Dacanay finished with a career-high 15 digs and solid serving, while Radtke and Kelly each had an ace and ended the night with nine and seven kills, respectively.
“With the amount of support us freshmen get, we don’t feel like we’re freshmen,” Kelly said. “Inexperience is going to happen, but our teammates are always going to help us through that.”
NIU will host a doubleheader Saturday against Belmont (1-3) and No. 3 USC (3-0). The matchups give NIU a chance at top competition from across the
“We’ve got two tournament teams that we’re fortunate enough to have come to our building,” said coach Ray Gooden. “Both teams know how to win and are good challenges.”