Volleyball to play two road MAC matches, Karlen, Balensiefer win conference awards

By Justin Kelley

DeKALB — Junior libero Miranda Karlen and sophomore setter Grace Balensiefer earned Mid American Conference honors for their performances Friday and Saturday, which led to wins over Kent State University and Ohio University.

Karlen was named MAC West division defensive player of the week after recording 5.50 digs per set. While Balensiefer was named MAC West division setter of the week, for the first time in her career, averaging 11.00 assists per set over two matches.

“It’s nice for those two to get their recognition, but honestly it’s been about what the team’s been able to do,” Head Coach Ray Gooden said. “That’s how it works out. Those two did a really nice job, but it’s more of a reflection of what the team did this last weekend.”

NIU defeated Kent State 3-1 Friday, and Saturday the Huskies handled Ohio in the Bobcats’ tenth loss of the season, also 3-1. The wins boost NIU’s home record to 5-4 and its conference record to 5-5, good enough for third in the MAC West division.

“[Not one team] has clinched a spot in the MAC tournament or been eliminated from contention, so everyone is pushing for success,” Gooden said. “It’s also important because we’re playing against teams we have seen already, and now its about execution and staying consistent.”

After winning its previous two matches, NIU faces Eastern Michigan University Friday before heading to Mount Pleasant, Michigan to face Central Michigan University Saturday.

NIU has not had success against CMU, losing 3-1, Sept. 27 at the Convocation Center. NIU defeated EMU 3-2 at the Convocation Center Sept. 28.

NIU has struggled mightily on the road this season, posting a 2-8 record. Both victories have been conference wins. The Huskies are 2-3 in road MAC play, and each loss has been a 3-0 sweep.

Start time against EMU is 6 p.m. Friday in Ypsilanti, Michigan. The Huskies then play 4:30 p.m. Saturday against CMU in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.