Volleyball looking forward to future

By Mike Romor

Volleyball head coach Ray Gooden expected this season to be a rebuilding year for his team, but the Huskies proved they are capable of much bigger things.

Despite losing five seniors from last season, NIU finished 19-13 overall, going 10-6 in the MAC for the second straight year.

While they failed to advance to the MAC Championship match, as they had the previous three seasons, the Huskies reached double-digit conference wins for the fourth consecutive year.

“We really grew as a team from the beginning through the end of the year and made some strides,” said junior outside hitter Mackenzie Roddy. “It was really fun and we played together. We have a lot of memories that we will take; the seniors will take a lot of memories from this season. We made a lot of progress throughout the season, and we will take that into next year.”

Roddy led the team in kills, averaging 3.48 per set. Her average placed her fifth in the MAC, which helped her earn First Team All-MAC honors.

Senior middle blocker Sarah Angelos earned a bid for First Team All-MAC for the second straight year. Angelos finished in the top 10 in the MAC in both kills and hitting percentage. She averaged a career-high 2.93 kills per set and hit .305.

The squad featured four seniors, two juniors, two sophomores and seven freshmen. The young lineup led to a slow start for the team, but once it found a groove, NIU built momentum all the way until the MAC Tournament.

The Huskies failed to find any consistency early in the season, sputtering to a 4-5 start in conference play. They ended the season winning six of their last seven games. The run helped give the Huskies a five-seed in the MAC Tournament, in which they beat defending MAC champion Bowling Green in the opening round.

Every senior saw an increase in playing time throughout the season, with Justine Schepler becoming libero and Kayla Zeno finding a permanent spot on the back row.

Senior Tori Halbur found ways to contribute when she could, eventually making a significant impact in the team’s tournament win over Bowling Green.

“I take everything [out of my experience at NIU],” Angelos said. “Every experience of my life that I’m most proud of and have been a part of has been through Huskie volleyball and being a part of this program. It means everything to me. I’ll always remember it and always have my friends from this team….”

Freshmen Mary Grace Kelly and Jenna Radtke proved to be worthy recruits among the talented core of young Huskies.

From the beginning of the season, the duo started matches and made a difference. Both were named to the MAC All-Freshman team.

The freshmen frequently gave credit to the upperclassmen particularly the senior class, for their success throughout the season, which stepped into leadership roles both on and off the court.

“It’s an awesome thing to watch and see how we came together and how everyone contributed, whether they were starters or if they came into the game from the bench,” Angelos said. “That’s something that is very special about our team…”