Women’s volleyball hosts Central Michigan for MAC opener

By Justin Kelley

DeKALB — The volleyball team has a chance to redeem itself after a rough start to the season with 3-11 record in non-conference play. The Huskies face off against the Central Michigan University Chippewas in their opening match of Mid-American Conference play today at home.

Head Coach Ray Gooden expressed how conference play could rejuvenate his team. Gooden said the games will be a fresh start and should reflect on their overall schedule. 

“There are a lot of [good] things we have done so far over these past four weeks,” Gooden said. “We’re oping to take that into MAC play, which is probably the most important part of our season.” 

The Chippewas finished their non-conference play with a record of 10-2, after winning the first five matches of the year. However, NIU defeated CMU in both of their meetings last season on Oct. 6 and Nov. 9. The Huskies won the first match 3-1 and the second match 3-2.

Gooden talked about what his team needs to do to compete with one of the better teams in the conference.

“Central Michigan is a physical team, very aggressive at the net and serving line,” Gooden said. “We’re going to have to work hard to match their level of intensity.” 

CMU is led by senior libero Megan Kern and junior outside hitter Kalina Smith. Kern was recently named the MAC West Defensive Player of the Week after recording a team-high 78 digs Sept. 20 through Sept. 22. While Kern leads the defense, Smith is ranked fifth in the MAC with 148 kills.

Jasmine Kemp, NIU junior middle blocker, and sophomore setter Grace Balensiefer are highly ranked in the MAC hitting percentage and assists. Kemp is ranked second in the MAC with a hitting percentage of .389 and Balensiefer is second in assists with 459.

Junior libero Miranda Karlen has been a key factor in serving for NIU. The Huskie ranks second in the MAC service aces with 19. Lisbeth Rosario-Martinez, CMU junior middle blocker, ranks third with 17 service aces.

First serve is set for 6 p.m. at Victor E. Court.