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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Volleyball drops road finale

Huskies go the distance with Ball State
Bobby Ellis
Members of the NIU volleyball team huddle during Saturday’s road match at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. The Huskies fell in five sets to close out their road schedule. (Bobby Ellis | Ball State Athletics)

It’s Set 5 at John E. Worthen Arena in Muncie, Indiana, and NIU volleyball is on the cusp of victory in its 2023 road finale.

Leading 6-3, NIU was positioned to pull off the road upset of MAC rival Ball State University, spoil the Cardinals’ Senior Day and snap an eight-match losing streak in one fell swoop.

After an early Ball State timeout, the Huskies surrendered three separate three-score runs.

NIU’s last gasp – an attack by junior outside hitter Nikolette Nedic – was rejected at the net by Ball State, giving the Cardinals the game, set and match.

The Huskies (8-21, 6-11 MAC) came up short in Saturday’s five-set barnburner, 14-25, 25-21, 11-25, 25-19, 11-15, to complete a series sweep for Ball State (16-12, 13-4 MAC).

The defeat leaves NIU with its ninth-straight loss and a 2-10 record in road matches.

Despite the result, NIU volleyball head coach Sondra Parys saw upside in her team’s competitive performance.

“Definitely some high highs and there was a low that came in one of the sets, but I’m really proud of how we competed, and we put ourselves in a position to win,” Parys said. “That’s all we can ask for.”


NIU struggled in each odd-numbered set, recording six or more errors and a hitting percentage at or below .057 in Sets 1, 3 and 5. On the flip side, the Huskies tallied double-digit kills, three errors and near-.250 hitting in Sets 2 and 4.


NIU finished with 48 kills, led by a trio of hitters with double-figures. Senior opposite/outside hitter Emily Dykes and Nedic tied for NIU’s lead, each scoring 14 kills. Sophomore outside hitter Nazli Güvener contributed 12 kills.

Dykes also recorded a season-high 6 total blocks to tie junior middle blocker Charli Atiemo for the match lead.

Senior setter Ella Mihacevich praised Dykes for her performance during pivotal points in the match.

“She made some really critical plays when we needed a big momentum point,” Mihacevich said. “She blocked really well tonight and was, just, amazing offensively. I think she was a big firestarter for us.”

NIU’s dynamic setting duo of Mihacevich and junior Sophie Hurt directed the attack. They combined for 39 of NIU’s 44 helpers.

On the defensive end, junior libero Crew Hoffmeier totaled 34 digs in her only start of the weekend. She also had 3 of the Huskies’ 7 aces to match her season-high.


The Huskies suffered through an offensive onslaught from Ball State’s side of the net for the second-straight night. The Cardinals tallied 66 kills in the match.

Cardinal redshirt freshman middle blocker Aniya Kennedy led the night with 22 kills. Sophomore opposite hitter Madison Buckley and graduate student middle blocker Marie Plitt trailed with 16 and 10 kills, respectively.

Junior setter Megan Wielonski finished with a season-high 57 assists.

Hoffmeier believes the ability to keep up with the powerful Cardinal attack is a testament to NIU’s elite potential.

“We have what it takes to be one of those top teams in the conference,” Hoffmeier said. “We hung with Ball State the entire time. There was no real ‘wow’ factor that they produced that we couldn’t handle.”


After the loss, NIU has cemented a fifth-place finish in the MAC West and ninth in the conference. The Cardinals have climbed to second place in the MAC.

NIU returns home to host 2023 regular season champion Western Michigan University (27-2, 17-0 MAC) at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Victor E. Court. The match will jointly serve as NIU’s regular season finale and home closer.

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