Volleyball swept in MAC

By Mike Romor

Volleyball continued its struggle on the road, losing to two divisional opponents over the weekend.

NIU (11-9, 3-3 MAC) jumped ahead early against Toledo (11-9, 4-2) on Friday night, but dropped the final two sets, ending with a final score of 25-27, 20-25, 25-21, 22-25, 5-15. The match was the first five-set loss since opening weekend for the Huskies.

NIU played solid offensively through the first three sets, hitting .230, but lost momentum in the fourth frame and failed to bounce back. The Huskies hit just .083 in the final two sets, including -.036 in the fifth set.

“They grabbed the momentum from us and we just couldn’t win the points we needed to so we could win that fourth set,” said head coach Ray Gooden. “We’re still trying to figure out how to close out matches, especially on the road.”

Senior middle blocker Sarah Angelos was one of the only bright spots for NIU, finishing with a team-high 16 kills and .406 hitting percentage. Angelos moved into 16th place on NIU’s all-time kills list with 1,139.

Sophomore setter Alexis Gonzalez pitched in with 29 assists and 13 digs, while senior Kayla Zeno had 22 assists and 11 digs.

Senior libero Justine Schepler posted a match-high 25 digs, while Mackenzie Roddy continued her steady output with 14 kills and seven digs.

Saturday proved to be even tougher for the Huskies.

Ball State (17-4, 5-1) started out strong and never let up, winning in straight sets. The three-set defeat was the third of the season for NIU and second in conference play.

“Ball State was on a mission,” Gooden said. “They have seniors that play on their pins that are really strong. They had an injury-riddled season last year, but they’re a really good team. They have good leadership and they play really strong together with a lot of pride, and they defended their home court.”

Ball State outplayed NIU in nearly every facet, outhitting the Huskies .287-.137. NIU only recorded two blocks on the night and just 34 digs.

Angelos continued her solid play, hitting a team-high .350 with nine kills. Gonzalez was the lone Huskie with double-digit digs, finishing with 11 to go with her 23 assists.

“[Angelos] played the way she’s always capable of playing,” Gooden said. “It’s good to see that and we’re hoping she can continue to do that. If she is able to do that, it helps to take some pressure off our other players and give us some more balance and more strength.”

Roddy swung for a team-best 10 kills and notched six digs. Freshman middle blocker Jenna Radtke had the team’s two blocks to go along with five kills.

The loss puts NIU at 1-4 in away matches after dropping the last three.

“We have to get in focus because in order to win a MAC Championship you have to do it away from Victor E. Court,” Gooden said. “We have to understand how important it is to find success on the road, and with a young team, we aren’t experienced with that. We show flashes of it and play well at times, but we have to be more consistent.”