Volleyball remains even in MAC play

By Mike Romor

Volleyball started the weekend slow but finished strong to split its two contests.

Ohio continued its excellent season by taking down NIU despite limited front row play from injured outside hitter Kelly Lamberti. Ohio (18-4, 8-2 MAC) won three straight sets after the Huskies (13-11, 5-5) won the first frame.

“We did some good things in the first set by staying calm and confident,” said senior middle blocker Sarah Angelos. “We’d get down by two or three but be able to come back without being nervous … the rest of the game that was kind of the issue. We’d make errors and not be able to move past them.”

NIU played well early on but couldn’t find a way to stop the MAC’s best all-around squad. Ohio came Friday to Victor E. Court in the first matchup between the two squads since NIU bounced No. 1-seeded Ohio from last season’s MAC Tournament.

“We actually never even really talked about that,” said Ohio head coach Ryan Theis. “We’re just trying to compete for a championship and we’re a game back, so we’re approaching every match the same. Now that I’ve been here six years, there’s been just about every team that at some point has made us mad and we’ve wanted revenge, so we don’t even really talk about it now.”

NIU was led by junior outside hitter Mackenzie Roddy and Angelos, who each notched 11 kills. Four Huskies reached double-digits in digs, led by senior libero Justine Schepler’s 18.

Sophomore setter Alexis Gonzalez finished the night with 36 assists and 15 digs.

NIU elevated its play Saturday night.

NIU crushed Kent State (10-13, 4-6) in a sweep, outhitting the Flashes .393-.068. The Huskies held the Flashes to scoring sets of 12, 13 and 18.

“We played the way we’re capable of playing,” said head coach Ray Gooden. “We did a lot of real good things. It wasn’t just one person, it was everyone.”

Roddy said the tempo of play was the key for NIU.

“We passed really well and just had a lot of variety,” Roddy said. “The biggest thing we did was control the pace. We were in control of every ball, every play, and it just felt really good to know we were in control of all those rallies.”

The Huskies beat Kent State in every single statistical category in a contest that lasted one hour and 19 minutes. NIU had only six attack errors in the match; Kent State never had fewer than six attack errors in a single set.

Gonzalez executed the offense perfectly for NIU. She tallied 32 assists, contributing to four Huskies hitting .385 or better. Defensively, Schepler had impressive digs to keep points alive and posted a match-high 10 digs.

“I thought [Gonzalez] did a great job setting,” Gooden said. “I think Justine played one of her best matches at the libero spot with her confidence. We played great team volleyball from top to bottom.”