Volleyball hopes to win pair of weekend games

By Mike Romor

Homecoming weekend will be significant for NIU volleyball as it looks to win a pair of cross-divisional MAC matches at home.

The Huskies (13-9, 4-2 MAC) hope for their 11th win in their last 15 matches when they square off against Buffalo (7-11, 1-5 MAC) on Friday. The matchup is the second of five straight against MAC East opponents.

NIU will host Akron (10-8, 3-3 MAC) on Saturday to round out the weekend.

“We’re into cross-divisional play, so all three teams not only want to show themselves as a program, but they also want to show themselves as a division,” said coach Ray Gooden. “We are representing not only NIU but the West against two really good East teams.”

In its last meeting with Buffalo, NIU controlled the match from start to finish. The 3-0 victory last season was led by former Huskies outside hitters Lauren Wicinski and Allison McGlaughlin, who combined for 23 of NIU’s 38 kills.

This time around, NIU will rely on a balanced attack up front with outside hitters MacKenzie Roddy, Meghan Romo and Emily Paschke. Middle blockers Mary Kurisch and Sarah Angelos complement the hitters, who have all seen expanded playing time this season.

In their last match, a road victory against Miami, the Huskies hit a season-high .412 with Angelos and Romo hitting .556 and .500, respectively. Angelos, Kurisch, Roddy and Romo combined for 37 of NIU’s 45 kills.

With NIU’s offense rounding into shape, it is imperative for the team to stay disciplined against one of the better blocking teams in the MAC.

“Buffalo’s a pretty physical team,” Gooden said. “Their setter also does a really nice job, so we have to put them under pressure so they can’t be in their system.”

Against Akron, NIU will have to deal with one of the best middle blockers in the conference in Tina Dimitrijevs.

“Their middles are easily one of the best units in the conference,” Gooden said. “Our middles are going to need to do a really good job. On top of their offense, they’re going to play some really good defense so we will have to continue to play rallies and play for a long period of time.”

Gooden knows a lot can unfold this weekend with his team continuing to develop and with opponents desperate for a big road win.

“Buffalo is a great blocking team and Akron is a great offensive team,” Gooden said. “Both teams are going to battle and both teams are hungry for wins.”