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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Volleyball blanked by Akron in straight sets

NIU suffers fourth-straight defeat
Tim Dodge
NIU defensive specialist/libero Jada Cerniglia serves the ball during Friday’s MAC battle between the Huskies and the University of Akron Zips. NIU was undone in three sets to extend its losing streak to four matches. (Tim Dodge | Northern Star)

DeKALB – Possession of the MAC’s final playoff seed has slipped through the grip of NIU volleyball, now fresh off its third sweep in four contests.

The Huskies (8-16, 6-6 MAC) sustained their fourth-consecutive loss after falling in three sets, 22-25, 20-25, 16-25, to the University of Akron (11-12, 6-6 MAC) on Friday at Victor. E Court.

NIU was outperformed in nearly every facet of the match, namely on offense. The Huskies logged 36 kills and a .214 hitting percentage while the Zips produced 47 kills on .343 hitting.

Akron redshirt junior outside hitter Faith Johnson headed the match with 13 kills. Two freshmen starters for the Zips also tallied match-best figures in assists and digs. Setter Eliska Vytiskova finished with 36 assists, and libero Vanessa Del Real recorded 9 digs.

NIU also surrendered six service aces to one of the MAC’s top serving squads. 

“Overall, I think, as a team, we’re disappointed in our performance,” said junior middle blocker Charli Atiemo after the match. “Yes, we did some great things, but it’s the downhill part of the season where games matter, matches matter. We just need to figure out on our end what we need to do, what we need from other people and what we need from ourselves.”

Atiemo accounted for half of the Huskies’ 10 total blocks, finishing with five to lead the match. Her trio of solo blocks equalled her single-game high, matched twice previously this season.

Graduate student outside hitters Katie Erdmann and Isabelle Percoco finished tied for the team-lead in kills, each earning eight. Sophomore middle blocker Savanah Brandt had the match’s highest hitting percentage at .750, earning six kills and no errors on eight attempts.

Percoco credited NIU’s setting tandem, particularly her chemistry with junior setter Sophie Hurt, for the team’s hitting performance.

“I think our setters do set us up a lot,” Percoco said. “I know Sophie, for me, speaking personally, she gives me the ball when I need it and just makes good decisions for the other block to be pulled and give me one-on-one opportunities.”

NIU fell behind early after Akron scored the first point and controlled the first set.

Tied at 3-3 to begin Set 2, the Huskies strung together five consecutive blocks. Akron battled back to claim the lead and eventually take the set, 25-20. 

NIU fell into its largest deficit of the night in the middle of the third set, trailing 19-10 after Akron’s final ace. The Zips capped the match with a 3-0 scoring run that handed NIU the loss that guarantees a losing season to begin the tenure of NIU volleyball first-year head coach Sondra Parys.

“This is Year 1, and there’s a lot of moving parts that happened within a team that not everybody sees,” Parys said. “We’ve got to keep growing, we’ve got to keep finding ways – I told them – to compete at a high level every time that they step out there, and really enjoy the process of what is coming together in this first year together. It’s just that. It is a process, and we’ve got to take it one match at a time.”

Though both teams are both 6-6 in conference play after Friday’s result, Akron has overtaken NIU for control of the league’s No. 6 seed. The Huskies – now ranked No. 7 – sit a half-game ahead of Bowling Green State University in the conference standings.

NIU will resume action at 4 p.m. Saturday as the University at Buffalo Bulls (19-5, 9-3 MAC) visits Victor E. Court for the first time in nearly two years. The match will be streamed on ESPN+, and live statistics will be viewable on SIDEARM Sports.

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