Volleyball to host Central and Eastern Michigan

By Mike Romor

NIU volleyball finishes its four-game homestand this weekend, facing Central Michigan Friday and Eastern Michigan Saturday.

The Huskies (11-3) open up their MAC season at Victor E. Court riding a three-match winning streak. CMU (7-4) has won four straight.

The last home conference loss for the Huskies was against the Chippewas.

NIU and CMU split their two matches last season, each team winning on the road in five sets. The Huskies and Chippewas made a habit out of splitting their meetings. Each team has gone 1-1 in head-to-head play for the past three seasons.

“We had a real tough match with Central Michigan here last year, and that was senior night,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “So we really want to give them a really good match and we know it’s going to be a dogfight. Every match in conference is going to be.”

CMU comes to Victor E. Court after winning Marshall’s Thunder Invitational. CMU outside hitter Lindsey Dulude claimed the tournament MVP while receiving her first ever MAC Player of the Week award.

“Central Michigan is going to come in very energetic, and they are a very emotional team,” said middle blocker Sarah Angelos. “They’re going to come into our gym looking to beat us, but I think if we stay consistent throughout, we will take it.”

With Dulude coming in to the match with momentum, NIU’s Lauren Wicinski and Kristin Hoffman will look to continue the Huskies’ success.

Wicinski ranks second in the NCAA in kills per set, with 5.17. Hoffman is third in the nation in assists per set. Her 12.26 assists per set are the main reason why NIU leads the nation in total assists per set, with 14.15.

Eastern Michigan University (12-2) is also fresh off of winning a tournament, sweeping the Robert Morris Holiday Inn Classic. EMU had three players named to the All-Tournament team, including tournament MVP Paige Roback.

EMU is seventh in the nation in digs per set, primarily led by libero Haley Stein’s 5.26 per set. Stein was first team All-MAC last season after averaging 5.73 digs per set, which is second in EMU history.

NIU won both of last season’s meetings against the Eagles, but Gooden knows EMU is not a team to look past.

“EMU’s a real good team with a lot of good players,” Gooden said. “They have a good outside hitter in [Rachael] Iaquanello and a great setter in Mason. Those two are anchors of that team so we have to do a good job of keeping them out of systems and do our best to use the tempo to our advantage.”