Volleyball dominates in MAC play

By Mike Romor

After suffering a tough loss to defending MAC champion Bowling Green, volleyball headed home, looking to rebound against two divisional rivals.

NIU ended the weekend with two dominant wins that came in two very different ways. The Huskies (11-7, 3-1 MAC) hosted Eastern Michigan Friday in what turned out to be one of the best offensive performances from Huskie middle blockers this season.

NIU defeated EMU (11-8, 1-3) in four sets thanks to senior Sarah Angelos and freshman Jenna Radtke, who combined for 27 kills on 46 attempts. Angelos finished the night with a .500 hitting percentage while Radtke followed with a .389 mark.

“I think they both did a good job,” said head coach Ray Gooden. “They put themselves in good spaces and Jenna did a real good job of being aggressive. I think her confidence grew a little bit throughout the night and she helped us get some important points when we needed them.”

Junior outside hitter Mackenzie Roddy was the only other Huskie to reach double-digit kills, notching 15.

Mary Grace Kelly traded her early season offensive success for a solid back row showing, finishing the night with a career-best 16 digs. Libero Justine Schepler had a strong defensive output, pacing all players with 26 digs. NIU held tough in the back row to post 78 digs to EMU’s 66.

The Huskies started the night slow, dropping the first set, but improved with each passing frame. Their hitting percentage increased significantly in every set, starting at .120 in the first and finishing at .279 in the fourth. Overall, NIU outhit EMU .209-.131.

NIU continued its momentum, winning its sixth match out of seven by defeating Central Michigan (7-9, 1-3) in another four-setter.

This time, NIU found itself on the ropes at multiple points in the match. It eventually came down to a 32-30 fourth set capped by late kills from Alexis Gonzalez and Radtke.

CMU had set point a few times in the fourth, but a three-point run sealed the successful home weekend for the Huskies.

CMU followed the lead of its best players: outside hitter Kaitlyn McIntyre and libero Jenna Coates. Both star Chippewas had dominant performances, with McIntyre leading all players with 26 kills while hitting .279. The second-highest total from either team was 11 kills.

Coates continued to lead a back row that requires her production in order to keep the team afloat, picking up 37 digs.

Despite holding NIU to just 45 kills and outdigging the Huskies 89-72, the Chippewas’ lack of offensive production up front from anyone not named McIntyre dashed any hopes they had of a road win.

NIU finished the night tying a season-high in blocks with 18. CMU posted just four blocks. NIU’s 18 blocks, which paved the way to 37 CMU attack errors, were a major factor in CMU hitting just .119 on the evening.

Junior middle blocker Emily Paschke had a great night off the bench for NIU, posting five blocks. Radtke had an even better output with six blocks.

“It’s what she’s capable of doing,” Gooden said. “On Friday, the numbers didn’t reflect it, but she did a lot of positive things, and I think it was good for her to have the numbers show a little bit more of what she did against Central.”