Volleyball looks to win MAC West

By Mike Romor

The past month has not been an easy one for NIU volleyball.

Persevering through 14 straight road matches, the Huskies managed to claim eight victories.

Now coming off a two-match sweep in their first home matches in a month, the Huskies (12-8, 3-1 MAC) will face their top divisional threat, Western Michigan (10-6, 3-1 MAC), Thursday before hitting the road to play Miami (Ohio) (5-12, 0-4 MAC) Saturday.

The Huskies look to win their 10th match out of their last 13 while taking on the top seed in the MAC West.

NIU enters the match having played some of its best volleyball of the season over the weekend in its return to Victor E. Court.

“I think the weekend was positive,” said coach Ray Gooden. “It was good to get those results after positive days in practice. We saw things we tried to work on in practice come through for us in our matches last weekend, so now we have to continue to build on that.”

Although the weekend was surely one of the highlights up to this point in the season, Gooden knows his team must keep improving if it wants to win the MAC regular season title again.

“It’s nice for us to do some positive things at home, but we’re still nowhere near where we have to be to be one of the best teams in conference, let alone our division,” Gooden said. “We’re going to have to be better because we are going up against one of the best teams we will see all season.”

In their last meeting, the Huskies beat the Broncos to clinch the MAC regular season title. This time around, the match has similar meaning for the teams and Gooden said a win over WMU would be “massive.”

Gooden believes the Broncos are arguably the best all-around team in the MAC, but he would not value a win against them over any other team in the conference.

“Any win right now in our division is huge,” Gooden said. “Any win in conference is huge. It’s not cliché. It’s legit. There are going to be bunches of teams at different spots throughout the season and we want to do our best to stay in the top bunch for as long as we can.”

NIU has already seen success on the road. Now going into their third straight home conference match, NIU middle blocker Sam Grams thinks the home court advantage will go a long way.

“We love playing at home and our crowd and energy is definitely great,” Grams said. “It definitely helps us and it’s good for confidence going into this weekend. Western is a good team and the home court is good to have.”