Volleyball splits weekend play, fall to Eastern Michigan, destroy Central Michigan

By Mike Romor

Heading into the weekend after a pair of disappointing road losses, NIU volleyball wanted to get back on track at home against a couple of its biggest MAC rivals.

The Huskies (16-2, 7-5 MAC) opened the weekend with a loss for the second time this season to Eastern Michigan (15-13, 5-7), 3-1.

“We’ve played two matches now against Eastern Michigan where we’ve led in statistical categories and lost the match,” said coach Ray Gooden. “Against Eastern, stats don’t matter. It’s just really about making the right play at the right time, and they continue to make the right plays at the right times.

It’s unfortunate because I think we lost a couple of deuce games that were attainable for us to win.”

Gooden talked before the match about the key player for EMU, Rachel Iaquaniello, who ended up with a match-high 18 kills. She also had a team-high 15 digs.

Despite the loss, four Huskies reached double-digit kills, led by 16 from senior outside hitter Meghan Romo.

Junior middle blocker Sarah Angelos was the most efficient Huskie, notching 14 kills on 24 errorless swings.

Sophomore outside hitters MacKenzie Roddy and Mary Kurisch each had 13 winners.

Defensively, senior libero Amber Walker led the Huskies, which had four players reach double-digit digs, with 28 digs. No other player in the match reached 20 digs.

NIU played an entirely different match Saturday against Central Michigan, taking down its biggest rival in a three-set sweep, 25-14, 25-21, 25-21.

NIU’s offense was in rhythm, outhitting CMU .299-.124. The Huskies were led by another stellar performance from Angelos.

Angelos finished the weekend with another errorless outing, hitting 10 kills on 22 swings.

Angelos, who earlier in the week said “hate” would be a good word to describe the team’s feeling toward CMU, finished the weekend with a .522 hitting percentage. She is now hitting a team-best .311 on the season.

“It would be hard-pressed to find anybody, maybe in NIU history, that’s done that,” Gooden said. “I think that’s an amazing stat. She’s continuing to find her game and I think her and Pookie [Alexis Gonzalez] continue to work on building a relationship. She did a really good job this weekend.”

Walker once again led all players in digs, this time posting 18 digs. Senior defensive specialist Sue Hayes also earned praise from Gooden for her back-line performance, which went beyond her six digs in the box score.

“Amber did a great job again for us, so did Sue and Justine [Schepler],” Gooden said. “The effort from us was great and it was more than just stats last night. It was a team effort and a high level of confidence that our team showed.”