Wright St. and Valpo shock NIU

By Jennifer Hutchins

The NIU volleyball team had an unusual weekend—unusual in the sense that the Huskies not only lost once, but twice against North Star Conference foes Wright State University and Valparaiso University.

NIU’s bad luck started Friday in an upset loss against Wright State that went four games, 15-8, 14-16, 15-6, 15-9. The Huskies never quite got their offense off the ground with a .180 hitting accuracy.

Valparaiso added one more notch in NIU’s loss column Sunday when it dropped the Huskies 16-14, 16-14, 10-15, 15-7. Game two saw NIU give up a 14-4 lead before the Crusaders rattled off 12 consecutive points for the win.

“The turnaround was the second game,” NIU head volleyball coach Pete Waite said. “We were up and they made a great comeback. Like I said before, Valpo is playing with a great amount of desire this year and a great defense.”

The Crusaders defense played a crucial role as it shut down NIU’s offense with a combination of scrappy defense and strong blocks (26 in all) that left the Huskies with a .077 hitting percentage.

“I think we just frustrated them with our digging and surprised them with our blocks,” Valpo head coach Cindy Harris said. “I was surprised myself. There’s no way I expected us to win this one.

“I said earlier this week that NIU is head and shoulders above anyone else in this conference and I’m not stupid enough to think that this was a good game for them. We just outplayed them today,” Harris added.

NIU dropped to 2-2 in the conference and 15-5 overall following the loss to Valpo, but are going to keep things in perspective Waite said.

“We’re trying to stress as a team that the most important thing is the conference tournament,” Waite said. “Things like this can often be a plus for the team, kind of a wake-up call to bring back the desire we had at the beginning of the season.”

As for Harris, Valpo’s win marks the first time in 11 matches that the Crusaders came away with a victory over NIU.

“It’s sweet to take this one because we might not win for another 11 years,” Harris said. “NIU has a tremendous amount of talent.”