Volleyball shows improvement

Volleyball shows improvement

By Mike Romor

In the last year, NIU volleyball lost two All-Americans and one of the most prolific outside hitters in its program’s history.

This could have, and should have, been a massive blow for NIU volleyball, but they have bounced back.

What probably is a haymaker for most teams that lose substantial chunks of offense, has proven to be but a mere glance to the iron jaw of the Huskies. Even if they have just seven wins in 13 matches this season, compared to last season’s 10, the Huskies have shown steady improvement in each match.

Riding a four-match winning streak after winning the Missouri State Invitational, the Huskies may not be perfect, but they are utilizing what they have in order to become the strongest unit possible.

Senior Mary Kurisch has seen a lot of changes in her time at NIU. With a lot of inexperienced players in large roles, the team is simultaneously making the most of the present and building for the future.

“It helps with anybody who’s returned and comfortable with each other out there because you know how to communicate out there,” Kurisch said. “When new people come in, it makes them more comfortable, too.”

When asked about volleyball’s success early this season with the new mix of players, including a setter who is a true freshman, the team agrees that embracing its closeness on and off the court has played the largest part.

“I think that our team chemistry definitely helps us,” said sophomore outside hitter MacKenzie Roddy. “It’s easy to trust everyone on the team. To know that everyone around you has confidence in you and everyone trusts that you will do your job really helps to improve your own confidence.”

Roddy has strapped on a heavy load for the team in a position with which she is not very familiar: left outside hitter. She played on the left for her club team a couple years ago, but upon joining the Huskies was switched to the right side for her freshman campaign.

Switching back to the left with such a huge amount of responsibility has not seemed to affect the sophomore.

“They’ve worked really hard to be a good group together,” said coach Ray Gooden. “It shows every time we play.”

Senior outside hitter Meghan Romo, who appeared in just 33 sets last season, has already played in 45 this season. She leads the team with 3.36 kills per set playing on the left side, which she also has not played as a Huskie.

Alexis “Pookie” Gonzalez, the team’s setter, was also eased into her role because of the team’s chemistry.

“Meghan and MacKenzie have really embraced their role and really want to capitalize on it,” Gooden said. “I think Pookie’s come in and done a good job as a true freshman. I think our setting corps is pretty strong so it’s nice to have everyone working very hard and productive together in their new roles.”

As the “quarterback” of the volleyball team, Gonzalez has not only had to learn every player’s styles and strengths, but she’s had to do it with two outside hitters still getting acquainted in their roles.

“It’s been an easy adjustment because the team’s chemistry is great,” Gonzalez said. “Everyone is calm, cool and collected and really helpful. [The upperclassmen] already know what they’re doing, but they have to get adjusted to the way I run things now, so I’ve helped them and they’ve helped me. We’ve worked together to figure it out.”