Volleyball serves up duo of MAC games

By Rhema Rhea

Volleyball (7-7) will dig into conference play for the first time this weekend when it matches up with the Toledo Rockets and the Ball State Cardinals.

The Huskies play Toledo (1-12) 7 p.m. Friday and Ball State (6-7) 7 p.m. Saturday at Victor E. Court.

“We are facing two championship-caliber teams, and it’s conference” play, said head coach Ray Gooden. “Everyone has a good idea of what each other’s styles are, [and] both teams are well-coached. The good news is that it’s at home, [and] we’re excited about that.”

NIU is coming off an 0-3 weekend away from home in California. The Huskies only won two out of 11 sets during the Cal Poly Invitational against Cal Poly, Santa Clara and California-Santa Barbara.

“It’s great to be home again,” said associate head coach Lynnette Moster. “Especially with starting up conference [play] to help us to get going. [We need to] take what we’ve learned from the first four weeks of our season playing against teams that are in the top 50 across the country and to take what we have learned into conference play. Hopefully, that helps, and we come out firing on all cylinders and we’re able to come out with a 2-0 weekend. That always helps.”

This weekend’s contests are not only conference games, but also are MAC West Division matches. NIU sits in third in the division at 7-7, which is ahead of the opponents the Huskies will face on the other side of the net this weekend.


After sharing a part of the Mid-American Conference West Division title last season with Ball State, Toledo (1-12) has struggled out of the gate.

The Rockets had a school-record four players named as All-MAC honorees last season; two are gone due to graduation.

Sophomore Alyssa Ehrhardt has been a bright spot for the Rockets’ offense, compiling 128 spikes in 45 sets this season, which is the 10th-best mark in the conference.

Last year’s All-MAC selection Brooke Frazer’s .242 attack percentage is second on the roster through 13 games. Toledo failed to win any of its first 10 games and only won three of the 33 sets the Rockets played in that stretch. The Rockets’ lone win this year was a 3-2 five set victory Friday against Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne.

“Toledo and Ball State are both teams that can bring it no matter where they play, so we can’t underestimate them, and we have to be on top of our game to put them away the way that we want to,” said freshman libero Anna Brereton.

Ball State

Ball State was the coaches’ preseason pick to come out of the MAC West Division, but its five-game skid in early-to-mid September has put the Cardinals behind where they should be.

Ball State’s sideline is run by Steve Shondell, 2007 American Volleyball Coaches Association Hall of Fame inductee, and he is in his fourth season with the team.

Senior middle blocker Hayley Benson and redshirt junior libero Alex Fuelling were preseason All-MAC West honorees.

Neither player has skipped a beat with Benson’s 123 kills in 52 sets leading the Cardinal attack. Fuelling’s 205 digs and 3.94 digs per set pace the defensive side of the net for Ball State. Fuelling is one of the two Cardinals with 100 or more digs on the year.