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Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Volleyball to finish season against regular season champs

Huskies and Broncos to conclude series in DeKalb
Tim Dodge
NIU senior setter Ella Mihacevich (15) jumps to serve the ball during NIU volleyball’s match against the University of Akron on Oct. 27. The Huskies are preparing to close out their season against first-place Western Michigan on Wednesday. (Tim Dodge | Northern Star)

The Huskies are at the finish line.

After 29 matches, 112 sets and 4,867 rallies worth of volleyball, NIU’s regular season finale is here.

Days removed from having its postseason aspirations fizzle out, the NIU volleyball team is back home to prepare for its final – and arguably toughest – test of the year.

The Huskies (8-21, 6-11 MAC) welcome the Broncos of Western Michigan University (27-2, 17-0 MAC) to Victor E. Court on Wednesday for the second act of the squads’ annual home-and-home series. 

Western Michigan downed NIU in straight sets during their last meeting on Oct. 17 in Kalamazoo, Michigan. WMU has since secured the top seed in the upcoming MAC Tournament as the regular season champion. The Huskies’ loss served as the beginning of their current nine-match losing skid.


The Huskies left Muncie, Indiana, this past weekend empty-handed after dropping two matches to Ball State University in their final road trip of 2023. 

Junior outside hitter Nikolette Nedic spearheaded NIU’s weekend killing efforts with 26 terminations. Nedic leads the Huskies with 292 kills, averaging 2.68 per set.

Senior opposite/outside hitter Emily Dykes added 24 kills to the weekend’s box score. The former transfer from Radford University owns the Huskies’ second-best termination rate of 2.18 kills per set and a .309 hitting percentage, making her the league’s seventh-most efficient hitter.

Junior middle blocker Charli Atiemo has been credited with 120 total blocks this season to lead the MAC. Atiemo has recorded 1.07 blocks per set, good for the No. 2 spot on the league’s individual blocking leaderboard.

Junior libero Crew Hoffmeier posted her third-best digging performance of the season on Saturday, finishing the match with 34 digs. Hoffmeier’s 495 total digs and 4.58 digs per set both rank third in the conference. 


NIU is set to face one of, if not the best, Western Michigan squad of the 21st century. WMU – who sits at a 17-0 conference record – needs a win on Wednesday to become the first team to finish perfect in MAC play since Ohio University in 2014.

The Broncos own the conference lead in points (17.69 per set), hitting percentage (.271), assists (13.57 per set), kills (14.45 per set) and digs (16.26 per set).

Three WMU outside hitters have already cracked 300 kills for the season. Graduate student Maggie King leads the Bronco attack with 3.73 kills per set. Seniors Keona Salesman and Anna Calcagno follow with 3.44 and 3.00 kills per set, respectively.

Senior setter Logan Case leads the country in total assists and assists per set, recording 1,220 total assists and 11.96 assists per set.

In the WMU backcourt, senior defensive specialist/libero Andelyn Simkins is second in the MAC and 26th nationally in digs per set. Simkins averages 4.91 digs per set.


Wednesday’s match will be the final college showcase for NIU’s four seniors. Among them is setter Ella Mihacevich, the program’s longest-tenured player in her fourth season. 

To pull off the upset, Mihacevich said she and her teammates must give it their all and play for something bigger than themselves.

“It’s going to take everything that we’ve been playing for all season to fully come together, hopefully put all the pieces, finally, in the right spots and play without fear, play for the love of the game and play for each other, because we ultimately know that it’s our last match as this exact team,” Mihacevich said. “I think just leaving it all on the floor on Wednesday night is going to be the mentality.”

The rematch begins at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Victor E. Court. ESPN+ will provide a stream of the match. Live statistics can be accessed on SIDEARM Sports.

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