Volleyball wins 2 of 3 games on road

By Rhema Rhea

Volleyball (6-4) entered the season having a “road warriors” mentality, and that’s exactly what it brought during the Morehead State Invitational.

The Huskies improved their record away from home to 5-2, beating home team Morehead State Eagles (0-9), (25-14, 25-16,25-14) and the Louisville Cardinals (7-8) in five sets (14-25, 25-23, 24-26, 26-24, 15-13).

The lone blemish for the Huskies this weekend was Friday at the hands of the No. 15 Arizona State Sun Devils (9-0), who took out NIU three sets to two (25-23,25-21,23-25,22-25,10-15).

“This weekend was definitely a good experience for us,” said redshirt sophomore middle blocker Lauren Zielinski. “Each weekend we’re getting better and learning from the previous one. It’s always nice to finish on a high note like we did the last game.”

Morehead State

NIU opened the tournament with its fourth sweep of the season, beating the Eagles in straight sets.

The match did not start out in NIU’s favor, with the Eagles running out to an early 6-3 lead. NIU raged back, compiling runs of 6-0 and 5-0 to eventually pull out a 25-14 win in the first set. The sweep was the first time NIU held its opponents under 20 points in three sets since Oct. 26.

Senior outside hitter Mackenzie Roddy led the attack, totaling nine spikes. Sophomore middle blocker Jenna Radtke and sophomore outside hitter Mary Grace Kelly ended the contest with seven and six kills, respectively. The Huskies were set up well, as junior Alexis “Pookie” Gonzalez totaled 22 helpers in the win.

“We come into every gym and we put everything we have out there,” Zielinksi said. “It’s definitely tough playing on the road, but we’re handling it pretty well.”

Arizona State

In a matchup against the No. 15 team in the nation, the Huskies put up a fight but came up short in the fifth set at the hands of the Sun Devils. NIU went into the half with a 2-0 led over the Pac-12 foe and all was looking well for the Huskies.

The momentum continued in the third with NIU bolting out to a 4-0 run. The Huskies answered a Sun Devil run by scoring eight more points to have a 12-4 lead early on.

NIU’s attack was controlling the pace, getting out to a 22-17 lead late in the contest, but ASU scored eight of the final nine points to pause the Huskies’ upset bid.

“We are just learning how to finish matches and it was another learning experience for our group,” said head coach Ray Gooden. “Even through [there was] that, it was still good to be in that spot.

“We just need to find a way to finish it out. We’re continuing to learn about it; [it was] kind of similar to the Colorado match and some of the other ones we’ve had. We just have to work on finishing sets out and the match out.”

NIU still had a chance to finish off the Sun Devils in the final two sets, but the team just couldn’t stop the ASU attack, falling 22-25 and 10-15 in the fourth and fifth sets, respectively.

The Huskies punched in three double-digit kill performances: Zielinski (12 spikes), Roddy (18) and Kelly (10). Defensively, freshman Anna Brereton registered 24 digs while Zielinski totaled four blocks.


Trailing 2-1 entering the fourth set, NIU proved it could pull off its own late set rally, defeating the Cardinals in five sets.

The win over Louisville was the first Huskie win over an ACC opponent since 2006.

“We were able to pull out a five-set match, which was great, and beat a team that received votes for the top 25. That’s awesome,” Gooden said. “I think it was a positive step for our group, a good way for our group to finish the weekend knowing we can play against some of the best teams in the country.”

Gonzalez finished the match with her second-straight 50-plus assist game, recording 57. Senior middle blocker Emily Paschke and Kelly had 13 and 11 kills, respectively, while Roddy finished with a match-high 25 kills in the final game of the weekend.