Huskies lose twice at home, see losing streak extend

By Marcel Carrasco

DeKALB — The volleyball team has struggled this season and its record is clear evidence.

The Huskies have picked up five victories in the Mid-American Conference this season and sit at third place in the West division with a 5-9 record.

The Huskies first lost Friday to the University of Toledo before losing Saturday to Ball State University. Toledo won the match in four sets, while Ball State swept the Huskies.

Senior middle blocker Brinley Milbrath was NIU’s best performer in each match, with 14 kills against Toledo and 15 kills against Ball State. Milbrath was the only player to surpass double digits in kills against Ball State.

After the match against Toledo, Head Coach Ray Gooden said he credits the Rockets for picking up a victory on the road; however, his team needs to be more consistent in order to get the edge in tight matches.

Sophomore middle blocker Jasmine Kemp was the only other Huskie to post double digits as she helped NIU with 10 kills against the Rockets.

Sophomore setter Grace Balensiefer has been NIU’s most consistent player. Balensiefer put together 39 assists against Toledo and 34 against Ball State.

Balensiefer has posted 20 or more assists in 25 of 28 matches this season. The socond-year player also posted 17 digs against Toledo which were her season high on the defensive side.

Junior libero Miranda Karlen had a season-high 27 digs against Toledo and followed Friday’s performance with 25 digs against Ball State.

The Huskies looked their best against Toledo after taking the first set; however, NIU failed to contain the Rockets, which showed in the fourth set when Toledo wrapped the match with a 25-15 victory.

The third set in the Toledo match was a gut-wrencher. The Huskies stayed neck-to-neck with Toledo, but the Rockets found separation in the middle of the set taking five points in six rallies.

NIU came close to Ball State in all three sets, but the Huskies couldn’t break through to get an effective offense going.

The Huskies made a comeback late in the first set with three points to tie at 23 a piece. The Cardinals held on for a 26-24 victory.

“I thought we were doing alright,” Gooden said, “We were battling back. We battled back in the third set. [We continue to grow].”

Now in a four-match rut, the Huskies have not seen a victory since Oct. 26, when they pounced on the Ohio University Bobcats.

In their losing streak, the Huskies have taken just one set of 13 played. Four consecutive losses look like an unlucky break on paper, but this is the third losing streak the volleyball team has encountered this season. The two previous losing streaks this season were during non-conference play and against top programs in the nation.

The first streak began Sept. 3, with a 3-1 loss to Chicago State University until a win Sept. 13 against Niagara University snipped six losses. The Niagara victory was followed with a five-match losing streak that seeped into MAC play. The Huskies lost Sept. 14, 2019, to the University of Delaware and continued to Sept. 27 in a loss to Central Michigan University.