Huskie volleyball hits peak over the weekend

By Mike Romor

Volleyball has already had its ups and downs, though the team is just 12 matches into the season.

The Huskies (7-5) hit their highest peak over the weekend, winning the Missouri State Invitational.

Looking to build from their success and add on to their four-match winning streak, the Huskies face Northern Iowa (6-4) tonight in their ninth of 14-straight road matches.

The match is the home opener for the Panthers, who just last week were ranked 25th in the AVCA Coaches poll.

With little rest since returning from Missouri, NIU coach Ray Gooden hopes his team will be up for the fight the Panthers are going to give in their first home match of the season.

“Any time we can get a win on the road it’s good for us,” Gooden said. “It’s wonderful to win all four over the weekend, but we have to put that in its own little box and off to the side and focus on what’s ahead.”

NIU junior middle blocker Sarah Angelos was an integral part of NIU’s success in Missouri, grabbing the tournament’s MVP honors. Angelos hit .413 at the invite while libero Amber Walker produced a career-high 33 digs in the five-set championship match, earning her All-Invite recognition.

Senior Meghan Romo was also named to the All-Invite Team, largely due to her career-high 21 kills in the tournament’s opening match.

Senior Mary Kurisch, who put up 19 blocks in the last two matches of the tournament, knows that NIU will need to continue to look ahead in order to come out on top against UNI.

“Northern Iowa’s always a good team and it’s always fun to play them,” Kurisch said. “But coming off the weekend, we’ve got to refocus on the team we play next get prepared for Northern Iowa.”

The combination of blocking up front from Kurisch and Sam Grams, stronger play from Walker and defensive specialists Sue Hayes and Justine Schepler has given NIU a more dynamic look so far this season.

The performance from the entire unit is what has given NIU a four-match winning streak and the squad needs to play at its highest level to beat a fired-up Northern Iowa lineup.

“They’re going to be really pumped up to play,” Gooden said of Northern Iowa. “They’re still a perennial top-25 team. They’re a historic program and we have a ton of respect for them. They’ve always been a team we’ve tried to emulate.”

Angelos believes NIU has proven itself to be good enough to beat any team on the schedule, even if that team is one of the best in the Midwest.

“We really showed that we are a good team over the weekend,” Angelos said. “We can take down some of these big opponents.”