Volleyball looks to take down Ohio

By Mike Romor

With this weekend marking a break in cross-divisional play for NIU volleyball, it will match up against a perpetual MAC contender.

The Huskies (15-9, 6-2 MAC), currently tied atop the MAC West, aim to take down Ohio (12-8, 7-1) Friday.

NIU will then play a MAC bottom-dweller, Kent State (5-15, 2-6 MAC), Saturday.

The Bobcats sit comfortably in second in the MAC East with a four game lead over Akron.

Ohio has won seven straight matches since suffering a loss in its MAC opener to Bowling Green, who is a perfect 8-0 in divisional play.

The Bobcats have swept six of their seven opponents, dropping only two sets, Oct. 12, in a five-set comeback victory against Toledo.

“They’re the perennial top team in the East,” said coach Ray Gooden. “They always have been. They’ve been there for eight of the last nine years. They’ve always been very physical at the net and very good with their ball control.”

NIU has won seven of its last nine matches and is coming off its first five-set victory since Sept. 15. Saturday’s win against Akron was the third time this season NIU has come back in five sets to grab a victory.

While the weekend resulted in two key wins for the Huskies, the team appeared to backtrack from its recent offensive excellence.

After hitting .288 in its five previous matches, NIU hit just .173 Saturday.

The offense was sputtering for long stretches throughout the five sets, but NIU added another win to its collection, proving offense is not everything for them.

What guides the Huskies squad to success is fundamental play, on-court leadership from its seniors and a grinding attitude that they display in every match.

What the Huskies have is not tangible. It is not a presentable statistic that gets printed on the box score.

What the Huskies have is a consistent persistency; they have a confident defiance that allows them to make do with their mistakes throughout each match. It allows them to seemingly build stronger as a unit with every point.

“I feel like we’re peaking at the right time,” said senior libero Amber Walker. “That’s really exciting. It’s close to the end of the season and some teams go one direction while others go a complete opposite direction. We just want to stay consistent and I feel like we’ve been like that all year.”