#5 Story of the Year: Volleyball makes it to the MAC

By Sam Bauman

For the third straight year the volleyball team made it to the MAC Championship final, and for the third year in a row they lost.

The Huskies weren’t even expected to make this year’s final, and that makes their season all the more impressive.

After losing two-time MAC Player of the Year, Lauren Wicinski, the Huskies were left with a large hole to fill. Head coach Ray Gooden’s effort earned him his second straight MAC Coach of the Year title. Gooden was impressed with how his team grew throughout the season.

“The season started with more questions than answers. We were a team that was in transition,” Gooden said. “From the 2011 group we made a lot of changes, but we still had a pretty solid core. On the whole we started playing some of our best volleyball at the end of the year, which was our goal.”

The Huskies were ranked as the fourth best team in the MAC going into the season, which is the exact same position they entered the tournament in after finishing second in the MAC West division. From there the Huskies put together a strong run through the tournament, the high point coming in the semi-finals.

Against top-seeded Ohio University the Huskies quickly went down two sets to none. From there the Huskies pulled off a remarkable rally to win the next three sets in order to advance to the finals. In the finals, Bowling Green gave NIU the same treatment. The Huskies quickly went up two sets to none, and had two different opportunities to win the third set and the championship. After failing to sweep, Bowling Green rallied and beat the Huskies three sets to two, making this a heartbreaking end to an improbable run, something that still upsets Gooden.

“It’s difficult not to be a champion, especially being as close as we were to winning,” Gooden said. “I think that part still stings with a lot of us, and always will.”

Even with the disappointing end, it is hard for Gooden to be down on what his team was able to do this season.

“It definitely was a great accomplishment for what the 2012 team was able to accomplish for the season, especially during the conference year and the MAC tournament,” he said.