DeKalb | Volleyball’s seniors are looking to reverse the trend of their NIU careers.
For Sarah Angelos, Tori Halbur, Justine Schepler and Kayla Zeno, this is the final chance to win a MAC Championship title match.
Having made it to the title match each of the past three seasons only to be stopped just shy of victory, Angelos made a bold proclamation.
“Our program expects to make it and to do really well in the MAC, so anything short would be a disappointment,” Angelos said. “So we’re definitely going to win a MAC title and win the tournament.”
In order to follow through on her promise, Angelos will need to continue her dominant play at the net. The middle blocker has become more of an offensive weapon every season, but this season she will be without former teammate Mary Kurisch, an All-MAC performer last year as a
While Angelos has already proven her worth up front, head coach Ray Gooden also wants her to become a valuable server on the team.
Angelos has been a main part of the service rotation through seven matches. While she has yet to find consistency, she has, at times, looked solid at the newly assigned task.
“She’s learning the serve like everybody else,” Gooden said. “As she continues to learn and practice, she will continue to get better.”
Schepler is another starting senior with an expanded role.
The Sycamore native has taken over this season as the libero in place of former Huskie Amber Walker.
Schepler has had pressure on her early on this season, but she seems to be adjusting to her role. Schepler is bouncing off solid performances, racking 27 digs in eight sets over the weekend. Her play was noteworthy against USC, in which she kept many points alive by digging several hard-hit balls from one of the strongest teams NIU will play this season.
Schepler knows none of her performances will count until the conference season starts and the team begins working toward another chance at a MAC Championship.
“Ever since the day we lost [the championship match] we’ve talked about how bad we want those games back,” Schepler said. “We are doing a lot this year to work toward that. Our strength and conditioning has been mostly about thinking, ‘OK, if we run these sprints out, it can determine those games.’”
Both seniors off the bench, Halbur and Zeno, have received more court time early on this season, as well.
Halbur has played down the stretch for the Huskies as a hitter and has provided a spark as a server.
In the third set against USC, Halbur’s serving and defense helped spark a run that won NIU the set against a national championship contender.
Zeno is getting a fair amount of time as a setter, rotating in for Alexis Gonzalez in every match this season and contributing as a server.
Against Belmont, Zeno ended the match with a career-high seven digs to go with her nine assists.
The four Huskies have accepted greater roles in their final season so they can turn their fortunes around and take the MAC title.