Gooden says team is eager to defend home court, Huskies to play twice during Homecoming week

By Justin Kelley

DeKALB — The volleyball team is in position to rebound from back-to-back Mid-American Conference road losses Friday against University of Akron and Saturday against University of Buffalo.

NIU was swept in both matches, bringing its record to 6-16 on the season and 3-4 in the MAC.

Winning is not guaranteed, and the Huskies will be tested Friday and Saturday when they host the Kent State University Golden Flashes and the Ohio University Bobcats at Victor E. Court during NIU’s 113th Homecoming week. Kent State and Ohio rank among the top-five in numerous statistical categories in the MAC.

Ohio currently sits in second place in conference hitting percentage with .221%. The Golden Flashes are ranked fifth in hitting with a percentage of .219%. Ohio leads the MAC in assists with 1,006 and Kent State falls in second place with assists 967.

The Huskies have played four matches at home following a 3-1 loss Sept. 9 against Texas Tech University and have only played one home MAC game this season.

“We’re excited to come back home,” Head Coach Ray Gooden said. “It will be really nice to get back. It’s really important for our group to keep working on improving and finding ways to play good volleyball together.”

Inconsistencies in the offense have led to vulnerabilities on the defense, and the Huskies have paid the price in their 16 losses this season. Gooden said defensive improvements will help NIU compete against the Bobcats and Golden Flashes.

“We got two really good teams both being physical and very dynamic,” Gooden said. “We’re going to have to work very hard with our defense and ball control.”

In last year’s matchups, the Huskies went 1-2 against Kent State and Ohio. NIU lost Oct. 19, 2018 to Kent State in their only matchup in a five-set thriller 3-2. Former Huskie Meg Wolowitz led the way for NIU with 20 kills.

Sophomore setter Grace Balensifer also had a solid match in 2018, recording a double-double with 28 assists and 12 digs.

The Huskies had better luck against the Bobcats in 2018, as they split two matchups. NIU won Oct. 20, 2018 in five sets 3-2 in Athens, Ohio. Then in the Mid-American Conference Tournament Nov. 7 Ohio swept NIU Nov. 7 in three sets to end the Huskies’ season.

First volley against Kent State University is 6 p.m Friday at Victory E. Court in he Convocation Center.

The Huskies will be back on the court 7:30 p.m Saturday at home against Ohio.