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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Volleyball messes with Bulls, gets the horns

Junior outside hitter Nikolette Nedic spikes a ball against the University at Buffalo on Saturday. The Huskies fell to the Bulls in four sets. (Sasha Norman | Northern Star)

DeKALB – The NIU volleyball team’s valiant efforts in the final two sets of Saturday’s MAC duel weren’t enough to survive the offensive onslaught inflicted by its visitors.

The Huskies (8-17, 6-7 MAC) plummeted to No. 9 in the MAC standings after losing a four-set battle, 18-25, 18-25, 25-23, 18-25, to the University at Buffalo (20-5, 10-3 MAC) on Saturday at Victor E. Court.


NIU’s leaders in kills, assists, and blocks all posted their performances after starting the match on the sidelines.

Sophomore outside hitter Nazli Güvener led the Huskie attack with 14 kills, trailed by junior outside hitter Nikolette Nedic’s 11-kill effort.

Junior setter Sophie Hurt assisted on more than half of NIU’s kills (46), recording 26 helpers. Senior setter Ella Mihacevich matched 15 assists with 10 digs to record her seventh double-double of the season.

“Ella and I distributed the ball pretty well,” Hurt said. “I think we really studied our scout against our block, we moved the ball around, and passers helped with that as well.”

Graduate student right side hitter Isabelle Percoco logged six blocks – two solo blocks and four block assists – to lead the match. Junior middle blockers Shannon Dunkin and Charli Atiemo both shadowed Percoco with four total blocks each.

NIU bettered its blocking figure from Friday’s match (10), posting 12 blocks involving six players.

“As a coaching staff, when you lose three matches in a row, it’s our job to try to figure something out,” said NIU volleyball head coach Sondra Parys. “I thought the people that came in did a really nice job.”

Junior libero Crew Hoffmeier notched 14 digs to crown the Huskies.


The Bulls registered 66 kills – the third-most kills NIU has given up this season – on 149 attacks to finish with a .322 hitting percentage. 

Three Bulls finished with double-figure kills. Senior outside hitter Katrin Trebichavska earned a match-leading 19 kills. Fifth-year middle blocker Courtney Okwara and freshman outside/right side hitter Manoela Forlin each followed with 13 kills apiece.

Reigning MAC East Setter of the Week junior Mandy Leigh mobilized the Buffalo offense with a match-best 50 assists. Her older sister, fifth-year outside hitter/middle blocker Abby Leigh, had a hand in each of the Bulls’ four blocks.

Defensively, junior libero/outside hitter Maria Futey accounted for 20 digs to lead the night.

Abby Leigh, Trebichavska and Futey each also aced NIU three times to lead Buffalo to an 11-ace outing, tying for its second-best serving performance of 2023.


Buffalo came out swinging – literally – with 37 kills on 72 swings in the first two sets, winning each by scores of 25-18.

After going the first two sets without a lead, the Huskies earned their first advantage of the match after the seventh rally of the third set. Their second came during the thick of a 5-0 scoring run that put NIU up 23-22 late in the third frame.

Percoco had a pair each of kills and blocks during the spurt. Nedic dispatched the Bulls with back-to-back kills to take the third set and avoid back-to-back sweeps.

“I think we just had one or two players that were like ‘we’re gonna win,’” Parys said. “It’s a mentality thing, and you could see it in their fight, the way that they approached the ball.”

The visitors responded by holding NIU to .000 hitting in the final frame to take the set and the match.


The match’s outcome sent NIU to a losing record in league play (6-7). Meanwhile, Buffalo came away with its 20th win of the season, joining Western Michigan University as the only two MAC squads to do so this season.

The Huskies continue their homestand at 6 p.m. Friday when they host University of Toledo, Parys’ alma mater. A livestream of the match will be aired on ESPN+. Live statistics can be accessed on SIDEARM Sports.

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