Huskies snap losing streak at Cardinal Challenge


The women’s volleyball team waits for the beginning of a match Saturday against Niagara University in San Antonio.

By Justin Kelley

DeKALB — Junior liberio Miranda Karlen surpassed the 1,000 dig mark over the weekend at Cardinal Challenge.

Head coach Ray Gooden talked to NIU athletics about Karlen’s accomplishment.

“It’s nice for Miranda to reach that milestone,” Gooden said. “She’s put in the work to reach that mark.”

The Huskies split their opening matches of the Cardinal Challenge, hosted by the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio. NIU dropped the first match of the tournament to the University of the Incarnate Word, 3-0.

In the second match, NIU defeated Niagara University in four sets to claim the Huskies’ first away match victory.

In the third and final match of the Cardinal Challenge, NIU lost to Delaware University in three sets.

Match One

NIU took control of the match early in the first set, scoring 10 points on the first 13 volleys. The Huskies could not hold on to the lead for long, as UIW went on a 17 to 10 scoring streak to tie the set 20-20.

The Cardinals would go on to take the first set of the match 27-25, led by junior outside hitter Julia Monday, who had six kills and hitting percentage of .667.

NIU was led by junior middle blocker Kennedy Wallace and first-year outside hitter Kaitlyn Bell with five kills each.

NIU struggled to find its footing in the second set, as the team had a hitting percentage of .037 and eight attack errors. The Cardinals capitalized on NIU’s poor play, and UIW had a match high hitting percentage of .243.

Gooden went in-depth on the Huskies’ offensive performance.

“It all starts with a good first contact,” Gooden said. “I thought we did a nice job of handling the first ball to put more people in situations where they can find success. I thought our first contact was handled a lot better and that led to us getting better balance offensively.”

UIW won the second set 25-18, led by sophomore outside hitter Bethany Clapp with three kills and one serve ace. NIU received contributions from first-year outside hitter Peyton Tilly with four kills in the set.

The Cardinals went on to take the third and final set in dominant fashion 25-13, outscoring the Huskies nine to one in the first ten rallies. UIW was led by Monday with four kills.

Bell and Wallace led the way for the Huskies in the third set with three kills each.

Match Two

The Huskies were led by Wallace, first-year outside hitter first name Tilly, senior middle blocker Brinley Milbrath and sophomore middle blocker Angie Gromos. Wallace was first on the team with 18 kills. Gromos and Milbrath had 13 kills each, while Tilly put up 10.

Sophomore setter Grace Balensiefer finished the match with 44 assists, while Karlen had 12 digs.

The Huskies opened the match with a thrilling set one victory over the Purple Eagles, 25-17. NIU had a tournament-high hitting percentage of .464 and three attack errors in the set.

NIU struggled to capitalize on its momentum in the second set, as it had a match-low hitting percentage of .140. The Purple Eagles went on to win the set, 25-23.

The Huskies were able to bounce back in the third set with a commanding 25-19 win. The team dominated in scoring the department, with a hitting percentage of .311 and 19 kills.

The Huskies finished the match with a win in the final set, 25-20, with a hitting percentage of .364 and 17 kills.

Match Three

The Blue Hens got the best of the Huskies, not allowing NIU to post more than 20 points in each set.

Delaware took early control of the match, winning the first set 25-11 with a hitting percentage of .350. Meanwhile, NIU struggled in first set with a season-low hitting percentage of minus .042.

The Blue Hens were led by first-year outside hitter Lani Mason with four kills and a hitting percentage of .800. Bell was NIU’s top performer in the first set with four kills.

The Huskies struggles continued in the second set with an improved hitting percentage of .167. Delaware took advantage of the Huskies’ poor play winning the set 25-13 with 12 kills.

Tilly led the Huskies in kills with four, and Balensiefer led the Huskies in assists with seven in the second set. On the other side of the net Mason and senior outside hitter Maria Bellenger led the way for the Blue Hens with three kills each.

Delaware was able to edge out the Huskies in the third and final set of the match 25-19, with a match high of 13 kills. NIU finished with nine kills and eight assists

Bellenger had a huge third set for the Blue Hens with six kills, while Tilly carried the load for NIU with three kills.

The Huskies will be back on the road for their next game when they face the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee. The match is set to start at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Klotsche Center in Milwaukee.