DeKalb | Saturday was a chance for volleyball to showcase its talent against two NCAA tournament teams from last season.
In its first match of a home doubleheader, volleyball faced No. 3 USC in what was the most anticipated non-conference match for the Huskies.
In front of a near-sellout crowd, NIU hung with USC, but ultimately lost in four sets, 25-22, 25-22, 19-25, 25-16.
While the Huskies (4-3) executed well against USC (6-0) for most of the match, the Trojans’ size and strength advantages were factors at crucial times.
The average height at the net for the Trojans is 6-foot-3, which was a blessing and a curse for the
For the entirety of the match, NIU was the more agile team, but it was tough for the Huskies to continuously rely on their speed to take down one of the best all-around teams in the country.
“We have good staff and good guys in our gym that help us out and we showed yesterday that our guys hit just like those women do,” head coach Ray Gooden said. “And if we can defend those guys in practice, we should defend those women in a match.”
In the victorious third set, seniors Sarah Angelos and Tori Halbur helped hold off USC late, something the Huskies could not execute in the first two sets.
After jumping out to a 17-9 lead in the set, USC fought back to make it 19-17 before Angelos netted three kills and Halbur served the Huskies to a 23-18 lead, which was too much for USC to overcome.
Angelos finished the match with a team-high 13 kills, hitting .321. Halbur finished with six kills and eight digs to go along with her solid serving contribution.
Freshman defensive specialist Paige Dacanay, who played a large role in the team’s strong defensive effort, notched nine of NIU’s 50 digs in the match.
“We came into the match knowing this was a great opportunity for us to learn things and adapt to change,” Dacanay said. “I feel like we got a lot stronger as a team after this match.”
It certainly appeared that way in volleyball’s second match of the day, against Belmont.
The Huskies came out very strong and took down the Bruins (2-6) in four sets, 25-17, 25-23,
Even though the Huskies gifted Belmont one set, NIU looked like the much better team on the court.
Angelos once again had a strong showing, this time hitting .476 with 12 kills. Until late in the
second set, Angelos had six kills on six swings.
“I thought I played pretty well and wasn’t as consistent as I could have been and made stupid errors, but I thought our team really rallied today,” Angelos said. “After USC, we were feeling pretty good that we competed really well, but we wanted to stick it to Belmont.”
Freshmen Mary Grace Kelly and Jenna Radtke also played well. Kelly finished with a team-high 13 kills while Radtke hit .500 with nine kills and no attack errors.
Junior Mackenzie Roddy had a double-double with 10 kills and 14 digs, while senior libero Justine Schepler had 14 digs to give her a total of 27 for the day.