Paschke wins starting job, shows defensive expertise

By Rhema Rhea

Senior middle blocker Emily Paschke has gained a close friend and a starting role on the front line over her four-year career with the volleyball team.

The 6-foot-2 defensive-minded senior has started in all 24 matches, playing in 84 of NIU’s 90 sets this year. She started in only seven matches during her first three seasons. NIU has six regular season conference games left, and Paschke is on pace to play in more sets this season than she did during the 2013 season (98).

The West Chicago Community High School two-sport standout is one of two seniors on the Huskies’ roster. The bond between Paschke and senior outside hitter Mackenzie Roddy has become strong in the last three and a half seasons.

“It’s been awesome. We’re best friends. I just love playing with her. She’s really positive,” Roddy said. “She’s always looking to help everyone else out, and she’s been doing a really good job this season. It is just really awesome to see.”

Paschke has also enjoyed her time starting alongside her good friend and fourth-year teammate.

“It didn’t start off with just the two of us … but [now] we live together in an apartment, so our friendship has really grown,” Paschke said.

The area of expertise for the Winfield native is defense. Her 56 total blocks is the third-best mark on the NIU roster.

“She’s a middle blocker for us, and she does a really good job with it,” said head coach Ray Gooden after Paschke’s five-block performance Oct. 18 against Buffalo. “It was nice for her to come out there … and end a homestand with such aggressive and confident play.”

The rise in playing time this season has come with career highs across the board, including 11 kills Sept. 13 against Louisville and four assists Oct. 4 against Miami (Ohio).

“I think as a senior responsibility roles go up,” Paschke said. “So, whenever I’m called on I’m just going to work hard and do my best and try to help out wherever I can.”