It was a wild weekend for volleyball as it reached the MAC Championship for the third straight year.
The Huskies (21-14, 10-6 MAC) faced off against the No. 5-seeded Akron Zips (16-13, 9-7 MAC) in the first round and defeated them in four sets, 20-25, 25-20, 25-23 and 25-18.
Freshman setter Alexis Gonzalez got her first taste of MAC tournament action and did not disappoint. She recorded 43 assists, seven digs, four aces and three kills on attempts without an error.
In the second round, NIU battled to come back and take down No. 1-seeded Ohio Bobcats (20-10, 14-2 MAC) in a five set thriller. The Bobcats won the first two sets, 23-25 and 21-25, and looked like they would finish off the Huskies.
However, the Huskies came storming back and won the next three sets, 25-18, 25-22, 15-1, to beat Ohio.
“We had a strong set in the third and battled in the fourth,” said coach Ray Gooden in a news conference. “We were up 8-7 at the flip and turned it right when we needed to using good defense and passing to win the fifth. It was a great team win for our group tonight.”
With the victory the Huskies found themselves in a position to win the MAC Championship with a defeat over No. 2-seeded Bowling Green (21-10, 13-3 MAC) Sunday.
The Huskies took a 2-0 lead in the match, winning the first two sets, 25-20 and 26-24, and were one set away from sweeping the Falcons and winning the MAC tournament.
Despite being up 2-0, the Huskies found themselves on the other side of the stick this time around, as the Falcons came back to win the next three sets, 24-26, 20-25, 15-4, along with the MAC Championship.
Junior Sarah Angelos and senior libero Amber Walker were key contributors Sunday. Angelos had 10 kills and seven blocks while Walker added a team-high 29 digs. Sophmore MacKenzie Roddy paced the Huskies with 10 kills and 13 digs.
Gooden was proud of his team’s accomplishments even in the wake of a heartbreaking loss.
“It was an overall team effort,” Gooden said. “We appreciate all of the support.”
Although the Huskies came up short again, two Huskies garnered All-Tournament honors in seniors Mary Kurisch and Meghan Romo. Kurisch hit .318 with 2.93 kills and 1.64 blocks per set in three matches, while Romo averaged a team-high 3.36 kills per set along with 0.71 blocks and 1.07 digs per set.