Volleyball drops three games in Calif.

By Rhema Rhea

Volleyball (7-7) couldn’t get in the right groove Friday and Saturday during the UCSB/Cal Poly Invitational.

Coming into the weekend the Huskies had an impressive 5-2 mark away from home, but they were swept by the opposing teams over the two-day span and had their road record slip to 5-5.

The style of play out West is different than what some of the Huskies are used to seeing back home, and head coach Ray Gooden said they found that out pretty early in the weekend.

“That’s one of the big things being out here,” Gooden said. “The level of ball control out West is pretty significant, and that’s why we’re out here to get that experience.”

Cal Poly

NIU started off its California action with a matchup against the Cal Poly Mustangs (5-5), who were undefeated at home (3-0) going in. NIU gave them their fourth win falling in four sets (23-25, 26-28, 25-20, 21-25).

The Mustangs had everything rolling in their favor, holding NIU to a .158 attack percentage while having a 59-48 advantage over the Huskies in kills.

“I think the match [Friday] was a good battle,” Gooden said. “I think that we were a play or two away from being up 2-0 in that match opposed to being down 2-0.

“In the third set we played well and consistent, and in the fourth set we had a lead, but unfortunately we weren’t able to maintain that same level of energy we had in the third set and we ended up losing that one 21-25. Again, we were doing good things, but we just have to learn how to do it for long enough to be successful.”

Junior Alexis “Pookie” Gonzalez registered a double-double in the loss, recording 21 digs and 34 assists. Freshman Anna Brereton was second on the team with 17 digs in the four-set match.

Digs were not the only defensive stat that NIU did well in, as the club had a 10-6 block advantage over the Mustangs. Emily Paschke, Jenna Radtke and Lauren Zielinski each had four block assists on the defensive side of the net.

Santa Clara

NIU began the second game of the Cal Poly Invitational contest against Santa Clara (9-3) with a clean slate, hoping for a win but ending the game with a sweep at the hands of the Broncos (25-17, 25-15, 25-22).

“It’s just a different style of play,” Gonzalez said. “I mean, it’s a style of play that [Mackenzie] Roddy and I grew up with and we just play a different game in Illinois. So, we really don’t get to play teams from out West, so it was just something different.”

Similar to the Cal Poly contest, NIU was out-killed by its opponent, 53-29. As a team, NIU logged a .363 attack percentage. The Broncos raced out to an early advantage in the first set, pulling ahead 9-3. The Huskies later went on a run of their own, cutting the lead down to 15-13, but they couldn’t stop the Broncos’ attack.

Santa Barbara

NIU closed out the busy weekend in California. They avoided a sweep but still chalked up another loss, sinking against Santa Barbara (25-20, 21-25, 24-26, 19-25).

“We were just playing long rallies and were just finding it hard to just end the point before they could end the point, but the game was good,” Gonzalez said.

The Huskies took the first set but couldn’t keep the offensive attack going, falling to the Gauchos in four sets.

NIU’s pressure on the Santa Barbara attack was there, having an 11-5 block advantage over the Gauchos, but that was not enough to pull out the win.

Roddy led the NIU offense with a .255 attack percentage and 15 spikes on the night.