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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

NIU to begin MAC play at Bowling Green

Huskies to visit reigning MAC champs
Scott Walstrom | NIU Athletics
Junior libero Crew Hoffmeier recording a dig against Chicago State University on Aug. 26. The Huskies were defeated by the Cougars 3-2. (Scott Walstrom | NIU Athletics)

NIU volleyball is set to receive its first dose of MACtion this week as the Huskies travel eastward for a road clash with the conference titleholders. 

The Huskies (2-10) open their conference schedule with a two-match series at Bowling Green State University (6-5) on Thursday and Friday. This year’s trip to northeast Ohio comes with a chance to topple the defending MAC champions on an opposing court.

“We’re looking forward to the opportunity to start strong,” said NIU volleyball head coach Sondra Parys after Tuesday’s practice. “We’re facing an opponent that returners are aware of the type of level that they play. We just saw two teams this past weekend that look very similar to them.”

The Huskies head into Thursday’s match leading the all-time series with the Falcons, 27-17. The latest matchup between the conference foes saw NIU successfully defend home court in four sets. 

The Huskie defense tallied 14 team blocks – the most in a single match since 2018 – on its way to downing the then-MAC frontrunners.

A road win Thursday would make two straight seasons that NIU has begun league play in the win column. Back-to-back sweeps of the University of Akron last season snapped NIU’s three-season stretch of losing MAC openers (2019-2021). Meanwhile, Bowling Green will look to extend its streak of winning its conference opener to six consecutive seasons.


Going into their ninth-ever visit to the Stroh Center, the Huskies have historically struggled when playing at Bowling Green’s home court since 2011. NIU has gone 2-6 at the venue since it was dedicated on Sept. 9, 2011. The latest NIU win in Falcons territory dates back to Nov. 14, 2015, when the Huskies imposed a shutout to spoil Bowling Green’s home finale.


Bowling Green begins league action with a 6-5 record, including a 3-1 mark in home matches. The Falcons return home after earning a pair of five-set victories in a home-and-home with the University of Michigan. 

Sophomore opposite hitter/setter Lauryn Hovey helms BGSU’s offense with 132 kills and 2.87 kills per set. Senior defensive specialist Alex Laboy has a team-best 143 digs and 3.11 digs per set. Bowling Green is tied with NIU for second in the MAC in total blocks. 


As the Huskies prepare to enter the portion of the schedule filled with challenging opponents, Parys said her squad is focused on consistent improvement and playing with the right focus and intensity.

“It’s easy to get frustrated when the results aren’t going your way,” Parys said. “We’re finding a way to motivate them despite results and just despite product. That’s been a big focus for us is continuing to focus on the process, and it’s the same thing with MAC (play). One weekend doesn’t win you the regular season, it doesn’t get you into the (MAC) tournament, so every night is part of the process.”

Both matches of the series will be played at 5 p.m. CT Thursday and Friday at the Stroh Center in Bowling Green, Ohio. Each match will be carried on ESPN+. Live statistics can be accessed on SIDEARM Sports.

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