Paschke adds ‘block first’ mentality

By Mike Romor

Volleyball’s Emily Paschke has made the most of her opportunities on the court this season.

The junior middle blocker and right side hitter has shown excellent blocking abilities throughout her three years at NIU. Last season, Paschke played well off the bench as a reserve. She stepped up when it mattered most in the MAC Tournament, posting seven blocks in the semifinals against top-seeded Ohio.

This year, Paschke has proven her blocking ability is no fluke. Against MAC foe Central Michigan, she notched a career-best nine blocks.

“I’ve always been interested in blocking first,” Paschke said. “I’d much rather get a block than a kill. I think that kind of attributes to my basketball experience. I used to always go for blocks, and defense was my favorite thing. I think that still holds true in volleyball.”

Because of her strong defense, Paschke has seen increased action since the start of NIU’s conference schedule, having appeared in every MAC set.

“She’s a real good athlete and good worker,” said head coach Ray Gooden. “She’s very physical at the net and one of our better point-of-contact blockers. It’s been good to see her get some success.”

Paschke already surpassed her career high for blocks in a season, now with 47 on the year.

She is also on pace to appear in more sets and matches than her previous two seasons combined. Through 70 sets played, she has averaged .67 blocks per set, good for third on the team. It’s equally impressive since her 70 sets put her at eighth on the team in that category.

While her blocking continues to be her strength, Paschke has been looking for improvement in her offensive ability.

“I always look for extra reps to try to work on [offense] after practice,” Paschke said. “I talk to [Alexis Gonzalez] and other hitters to try to get advice from them, too.”

She averages .71 kills per set this season, which is sixth among Huskies, but just by being on the court she has started to receive more opportunities. Her consistent defense has been a stabilizer while she continues to develop her offensive repertoire.

Her blocking and improving offense may be the two areas Paschke is always focused on, but now as one of the upperclassmen on the roster, she has also taken a bigger leadership role.

“Being older now and being a junior, I have responsibility to look after the freshmen and sophomores,” Paschke said. “I realize that I have to be a leader and contribute to their success, too. So it’s not such an individual role now, it’s more of helping everyone.”

With four of the six upperclassmen seniors, Paschke and Mackenzie Roddy will be the only seniors next season for the Huskies. Gooden has already seen the progressed leadership from Paschke and hopes it continues into next season.

“It’ll be her last go, and as she continues to build confidence, hopefully she sets pretty high goals for herself,” Gooden said.