Volleyball splits matches in regular season finale

By Mike Romor

Volleyball hosted two divisional rivals over the weekend, but NIU will likely remember just one of those matches.

The Huskies (18-12, 10-6 MAC) split its weekend contests against Ball State and Toledo, putting forth two contrasting performances while doing so.

Friday night against Ball State was a “burn the tape” kind of night for the Huskies. Ball State (24-7, 12-4) came to Victor E. Court and dominated from the opening point, winning in straight sets, 25-19, 25-17, 25-21.

The loss snapped a five-match win streak for the Huskies and was only the second time they have been swept at home this season. The other 3-0 loss came in mid-September to Northern Iowa.

“I’ll take full responsibility for [the loss],” said head coach Ray Gooden. “I think we went in with the idea of looking for the result as opposed to playing well together.”

NIU did not execute offensively in the match, but junior outside hitter Mackenzie Roddy led the way with 10 kills, and she also posted 10 digs. Middle blockers Sarah Angelos and Jenna Radtke hit efficiently, but were ineffective at times, combining for 14 kills with Angelos hitting .368 while Radkte hit .286.

Senior libero Justine Schepler reached double-digits with 10 digs, while sophomore setter Alexis Gonzalez posted nine digs to go with her 30 assists.

After a first set in which the Huskies recorded only eight kills, Ball State looked fresher, faster and more focused.

The second set rally set the teams apart, though, with Ball State outhitting NIU .429-.212. Overall, Ball State outhit NIU .307-.188 while outdigging the Huskies 53-40.

Following its worst conference home loss of the season, NIU put together possibly its best all-around performance of the year, downing Toledo (19-11, 12-4) in straight sets, 25-15, 25-20, 29-27. The victory was NIU’s sixth win in its last seven matches.

“We always have the idea that we really want to defend our home court and play really well together,” Gooden said. “I think that was [what we did]. We have had flashes of it; we’ve won six out of seven and we’re doing some positive things. It’s nice for us to get back on track.”

Senior Tori Halbur received extended playing time in her final home game, and she proved her value to the program. She made an impact early on with reliable serving and solid back row play, ending the night with seven digs.

Seniors Zeno and Schepler each played nearly perfect in the back row as well, leading the way with 13 digs apiece.

Angelos had one of her better defensive performances of the year, finishing with three solo blocks and two block assists. She also contributed many deflections that made life easier for the back row.

Angelos also put together another efficient offensive performance as well, posting 11 kills and a .391 hitting percentage.

En route to a match-high 12 kills, Roddy surpassed 1,000 kills for her career, making her the 21st Huskie to ever do so.

Gonzalez could not have run the offense any smoother. She had one of her best performances of the season, as the back row’s passing made her job easier. She tallied 38 assists, six kills, two timely service aces and eight digs.

As a team, NIU outblocked Toledo 10-6 and outhit the Rockets .296-.167.