Volleyball returns to Iowa

By Rhema Rhea

After just two days of rest, volleyball (3-3) will hit the floor Tuesday for a bout against the Northern Iowa Panthers (2-4).

The Huskies will take on the Panthers 7 p.m. today at the McLeod Center in Cedar Falls, Iowa. This meeting marks the second time in four days the Huskies will visit the Hawkeye state.

“We’re going through the grind of our schedule,” said head coach Ray Gooden. “Starting now over the next two weeks we are going to play eight matches in two weeks. So, it’s going to be a challenge, but that’s the way our schedule kind of has to lay out to get us prepared.

“Again, we are playing against really good teams with Northern Iowa being the next one up. This is one of the big pushes before we get ready for conference [play], and we are ready and accepting of the challenge.”

The Huskies come into the matchup 3-3 on the season after winning two-straight weekend games against Tennessee and Nebraska-Omaha before dropping the championship match against the host team, Iowa State, during the Iowa State Challenge over the weekend.

Gooden said the aggressive play the Huskies saw from Iowa State could be similar to what they will see from the Panthers today.

“I think that since we’ve seen something similar I think that we can adjust really well on Tuesday,” said sophomore middle blocker Jenna Radtke.

Similar to NIU, Northern Iowa is coming off a weekend tournament. The Panthers competed in the Commonwealth Classic this weekend, going 0-3, including a straight sweep (21-25, 22-25, 25-27) against the then-No. 6 University of Southern California Trojans.

Despite the Commonwealth Classic being Northern Iowa’s first winless tournament since the 2012 NCAA Tournament, sophomore libero Amie Held was named to the Commonwealth Classic All-Tournament team, averaging 5.33 digs per set in the tournament.

“Historically, they’ve been a physical team,” Gooden said. “They’ve been a great ball control team. They are what we strive to be: a regional program with a national presence. That’s why we love to play against them, because we feel it’s a very competitive match.”