Volleyball heads home for conference play

By Mike Romor

DeKalb | Volleyball hopes to continue its home success this weekend before it embarks on a two-week road trip.

NIU (9-7, 1-1 MAC) will host Eastern Michigan Friday night and will wrap up its homestand against Central Michigan Saturday night.

Eastern Michigan (11-6, 1-1) has been strong at times this season but has struggled to maintain consistency.

The Eagles followed a four-match losing streak earlier this season by winning five in a row. EMU won in straight sets in each of those victories. In its 11 wins this season, EMU has only dropped six sets.

“Their balance is one of their signatures,” said head coach Ray Gooden. “They’re not just a one-person team. Their pins are solid, their middles are solid, they have a solid libero and their setting is pretty good, even in a two-setter situation. All those things make for a pretty balanced team.”

Central Michigan (7-7, 1-1) has not seen the same level of success as NIU or Eastern Michigan early on this season, but has played solid volleyball at times. Four of CMU’s losses this season have been sweeps, while five of its wins have been sweeps. It’s been a case of all-or-nothing for the Chippewas.

Junior outside hitter Kaitlyn McIntyre leads the CMU attack with 3.83 kills per set. She is hitting a career-best .241 so far this year as the featured hitter and is just nine kills shy of 1,000 for her career. She is also second on the team in digs, averaging 2.31 per set.

Another player to watch from CMU is senior libero Jenna Coates. Coates has nearly 1,600 career digs and is well on her way to making her second consecutive All-MAC First Team.

Coates is averaging 5.29 digs per set, which ranks 16th in the nation. She also leads the Chippewas in aces with 12 on the season.

“Those are two of the better players in all of the conference,” Gooden said. “They’re going to be led well with those guys. They’re going to be a really good team and they’re only two years removed from winning a championship, so they know what it’s like.”

Junior outside hitter Mackenzie Roddy leads the Huskies with 3.48 kills per set, while senior middle blockers Sarah Angelos and Jenna Radtke anchor the front row with hitting percentages of .264 and .304, respectively.

For Gooden, what matters most is consistency.

“Our group wants to be as consistent as possible, and we are nowhere near where we need to be yet,” Gooden said. “We’re still trying to get better right now.”