Volleyball program eager for start of season


Head Coach Ray Gooden directs his team during the University of Toledo match Sep. 21, 2018.

By Maddie Barrett

DeKALB — After an up-and-down season in 2018, Head Coach Ray Gooden has a positive outlook for this season and is looking forward to working with the incoming players.

“The vast majority [of players on our team] are pretty young,” Gooden said. “We’re trying to work hard to get our players to understand how they can play, and how to do it in a way which empowers them.”

First-year outside hitter Peyton Tilly is excited for her first season playing college volleyball, and said she loves having new faces to support her.

“I’m super excited about my first season,” Tilly said. “We had our first exhibition match Saturday and it was so fun. It was awesome to feel the energy and be in that gym together.”

The season includes opponents from Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, New York and more. Gooden sees the opponents as fair and believes his team has a good chance to win. 

“I think our schedule fits our personnel,” Gooden said. “It’ll be nice to play against teams of varying backgrounds.”

The Huskies will travel to Dayton, Ohio to face top NCAA volleyball programs University of Michigan and the University of Missouri at Dayton University. The Michigan Wolverines are ranked 15 in the 2019 NCAA Preseason Poll, and the Missouri Tigers earned honorable mention votes in the same poll.

NIU will also face Dayton University who is the 2018 Atlantic 10 Conference Tournament champion.

Junior libero Miranda Karlen was a MAC West Defensive Player of the Week last year and started all 32 matches at libero. Karlen is optimistic about this season and the addition of new players.

“The team as a whole has really come together,  and we’re pushing each other and ourselves to go out and be the best team we can,” Karlen said. “It’s a really cool environment to be a part of.”

The team will open their season by hosting the NIU Invitational. This year’s invitees include Fairleigh Dickinson University, University of California-Riverside and Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.

The Huskies will tip off the invitational against Fairleigh Dickinson noon Friday before taking on SIU-Edwardsville at 7 p.m. NIU will close out the invitational against UC-Riverside 1 p.m.  Saturday. The invitational will be held at the Convocation Center.