There was a lack of energy from volleyball early in Tuesday night’s match against Northern Iowa.
By the end of the match, that lack of energy was on full display through the body language and facial expressions of every Huskie. It became apparent after a tough first set that NIU (5-6) was not in its element both physically and mentally, while UNI (7-4) reeled off its sixth straight victory in straight sets, 25-22, 25-18, 25-21.
The Huskies came back to DeKalb after a disappointing weekend in New Mexico and failed to turn things around against the Panthers, whose win streak started with a sweep over Louisville, which was ranked 17th in the AVCA Coaches Poll at the time.
NIU took a promising lead late into the first set. The team’s energy and focus seemed to be on point until a 21-18 lead quickly evaporated. UNI won the first frame by tallying seven of the last eight points of the frame.
“It’s all about consistency,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “We have flashes of it, where we’re playing really well up until that 21st point and [Northern Iowa] turned it on us. That ended up being the difference in that set and we just weren’t consistent the rest of the night.”
When the second set began, a solid UNI team sprinted out of the gate.
NIU found itself in an early eight-point deficit, 12-4, that stuck through the end of the set. The Huskies had eight attack errors and three service errors in the second frame.
NIU is 5-0 when winning a second set and 0-6 when dropping the pivotal frame.
After the intermission, NIU came back onto the court with a little more determination, but the energy level the team is accustomed to was not present from the players or the crowd. The team played catch-up for the entire set and finally took the lead at 18-17, but four NIU errors in five points gave UNI a 21-19 lead.
The lead stuck until the end, when the Panthers got the final point on a kill from Eryca Hingtgen, who led her squad with 12 kills.
Despite a highly inconsistent showing as a team, NIU freshman Jenna Radtke hit efficiently, swinging .412 with nine kills.
Senior libero and Sycamore native Justine Schepler was the only Huskie with more than five digs, tallying a match-high 19 digs.
“It almost felt like people were passive out there and didn’t want to fight for it,” Schepler said. “That’s one of our biggest struggles right now. We have to fight, especially all the way to the end of that game.”
Outside hitter Mackenzie Roddy notched a team-high 12 kills while posting five digs. Roddy, the team’s highest-volume swinger, echoed her coach’s thoughts about the team struggling to find consistency.
“We have our moments where we push really hard and then we have moments where we have some lapses,” Roddy said. “I think that we’re still trying to learn how to find that consistency.”
Senior Sarah Angelos was honored before the match for becoming the 20th Huskie to reach 1,000 kills in her career.