Volleyball ends conference season this weekend

By Mike Romor

A trying conference season for NIU volleyball ends this weekend with two of the toughest matches of the year.

The Huskies (18-12, 9-5 MAC) sit in second place in the MAC West behind only Western Michigan (18-9, 11-3), who they face off against in Kalamazoo, Mich., on Thursday.

The matchup between the top two seeds in the division comes at the perfect time for NIU.

NIU is coming off one of its best weekends of the season, convincingly beating Toledo and Ball State on the road.

The Huskies will need to keep the momentum in their favor come Thursday.

“It’s a match that we hope to be in a positive spot in heading into,” said coach Ray Gooden. “We hope we can put a solid match together and we can do some pretty good things there. They’re a very solid team and they have a very good coach. It will be a big battle.”

The front line for WMU is one of the best in the MAC, led by senior middle blocker Jessica Brown. Brown is a two-time All-MAC performer and leads the Broncos in kills and blocks.

In this season’s prior matchup, a 3-0 WMU win in DeKalb, Brown was held to a .133 hitting percentage on five kills and had only one block.

WMU succeeded in the match because of great handling and heavy contributions up front, as eight different Broncos had a kill.

“I think they handle the ball well and are very composed,” Gooden said. “They have a very good setter. They know how to play winning volleyball. That’s what the bottom line is.”

The competitive road match will be followed by NIU’s final home match of the season.

The match, which is senior night for NIU, is against MAC East co-leader Bowling Green (17-9, 12-2).

Saturday’s competitive match will be the last at Victor E. Court for Huskies Sam Grams, Sue Hayes, Mary Kurisch, Meghan Romo and Amber Walker.

All five have made notable contributions for NIU this season and are anxious to play in their final match in DeKalb.

“We are playing against two of the top three teams in the conference this weekend and we are getting really excited to end the weekend at home with Bowling Green,” Gooden said. “We have a tough one against Western Michigan Thursday, but the girls are excited to get back home for the last match of the regular season.”