Volleyball hopes to bounce back during weekend home stint


Justine Schepler defensive specialist for Northern Illinois University women’s volleyball team serves the ball in a game early this season.

By Mike Romor

After what turned out to be a poor end to its cross-divisional play MAC play, NIU volleyball hopes to find its groove at home.

The Huskies (15-11, 6-4 MAC) open their weekend up Friday against Eastern Michigan (14-12, 4-6) before rival Central Michigan (12-9, 6-4) takes the court Saturday night.

“We need to really work on winning rallies,” said coach Ray Gooden. “They are a very good defensive team. They are incredibly determined and they don’t quit. We need to do a great job of staying resilient and staying in rallies.”

A rematch against Eastern Michigan comes at the perfect time for NIU, as they lost to the Eagles earlier this season. The Huskies want to prove they are better than what they have shown.

“With Eastern, we feel like we owe them,” said junior middle blocker Sarah Angelos. “We feel like we owe them a good match because in the last game, we beat ourselves.”

One obstacle NIU faces in Eastern Michigan’s lineup is outside hitter Rachel Iaquaniello. Iaquaniello was named First Team All-MAC last season and was named the MAC Offensive Player of the Week Monday for her recent performance.

“[Their biggest strengths are] their defense and they have their outside hitter, Rachel Iaquaniello, who’s been doing some good things,” Gooden said. “They’re a very determined group and when they want to, they play some very solid volleyball.”

Friday’s match is important for the Huskies, but Saturday’s showcase against Central Michigan has the team even more excited about the weekend.

NIU beat Central Michigan twice during last season’s regular season before falling in the MAC Tournament final in five sets to its main rival.

Angelos said hate “isn’t too strong of a word” to describe the team’s feelings toward the Chippewas.

“Us, Eastern and Central all know each other a little too well sometimes,” Angelos said. “Especially with Central, that’s pretty much the same make-up as the team in the MAC Tournament last year.”

Now tied in second with the Chippewas in a tight MAC West, the Huskies need to capitalize on having home court and stay focused for the entire match, which is something Angelos said has been a theme of this week’s practices.

“We need to stay consistent,” Gooden said. “In October, it’s all about consistency and our team knows that. We’re working really hard on trying to put multiple plays together. Central’s always going to be real fast, very vocal and very energetic, so we’re going to have to work hard to be stable and consistent.”