Volleyball sweeps it weekend matches, beats Akron saturday

By Mike Romor

After winning its previous two matches in a row, NIU volleyball took on Akron Saturday night.

The Huskies (15-9, 6-2 MAC) took down the Zips (10-10, 3-5 MAC) at home 23-25, 25-18, 18-25, 25-23, 15-10.

The win gave moved the Huskies into a three-way tie atop the MAC West standings.

The win was not pretty, but NIU played inspired volleyball when it mattered most.

Although the offense sputtered at times and there was plenty of miscommunication from start to finish, NIU worked as a team to come back from a 2-1 deficit.

After winning the always-crucial third set 25-18, Akron seemed to have the momentum. Unbeknownst to the Zips, NIU was about to wear them down in every way possible.

The Huskies only hit .127 in the fourth frame, but they limited the Zips to a .065 hitting percentage, hitting nine kills and six errors on 46 swings. NIU outside hitter MacKenzie Roddy had four of her 17 kills in the set while providing excellent defensive play.

As a team, the Huskies notched 28 digs in the fourth set. Libero Amber Walker notched 10 of her match-high 20 digs in the frame.

“I feel our bumpers are some of the best in the conference,” said coach Ray Gooden. “I continue to say that and I’ll continue to stand by it. They came in tonight and they showed it.”

Entering the fifth set, the Zips appeared to have a bit more energy. Taking control early, they got to 10 points first and led by three.

At 10-7, Akron’s Janine Lawler, who was clearly exhausted, lined up to serve. Her serve sailed out, bringing NIU to within two.

After struggling since the end of the third set, Alexis Gonzalez now had to help serve the Huskies back into this match. She did just that.

Gonzalez pounded seven consecutive serves at the Zips, forcing scattered lines and bad sets each time.

“I’m not going to sugarcoat it,” Gonzalez said, “I got in my head and it was bad. It’s kind of uplifting because I know that I can play better. I’m just glad I was able to help at the end. Just to know that I made so many errors and we still were able to win like that as a team is great.”

After an initial miscue off a hard Gonzalez serve brought NIU within one, seniors Meghan Romo and Mary Kurisch hit back-to-back kills off well-set balls from Gonzalez to give the Huskies the lead.

After a much-needed Akron timeout, NIU sophomore Emily Paschke got a kill and Gonzalez served an ace.

Two consecutive attack errors ended the match and the Huskies had pulled out an inspiring comeback victory on Homecoming night.

“It was amazing,” Walker said. “It’s hard to describe it. I told everyone in the huddle that we didn’t work this hard just to lose this game, so let’s go. It was so exciting to win and it was really cool to have the audience that involved. It was a fun game.”