NIU volleball defeats CMU, falls to EMU


Lauren Wicinski jumps to spike a ball against Kaitlyn Schultz of Central Michigan University at the game Friday.

By Mike Romor

NIU volleyball wrapped up its four-match homestand this weekend, splitting a pair of matches between Eastern and Central Michigan.

NIU (12-4, 1-1 MAC) took on EMU (13-3, 1-1 MAC) Saturday, but could not seal a victory, falling in four sets, 26-28, 28-26, 15-25, 20-25.

Lauren Wicinski led NIU with season-high 27 kills, yet the offense was anything but consistent. The Huskies had 61 kills but also racked up 32 attack errors and was outhit .241 to .159 in the match.

“Every match is going to be difficult,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “It’s going to be a hard-fought match and Eastern was angry from their performance last night against Western [Michigan] and wanted to make up for it. Our team, for the first time, got pushed, and we didn’t get ourselves back to doing the things that we’re traditionally doing.”

Sophomore Sarah Angelos was the only Huskie to hit over .200 on the night, hitting .500 with 13 kills and no errors.

Libero Amber Walker led the Huskies with a career-high 26 digs in the match. Walker had several digs to keep important rallies going that filled both the Huskies and the home crowd with energy.

“I think she’s doing a good job,” Gooden said. “She’s learning the position and I think she’s going to continue to improve in the areas where stats aren’t necessarily a factor, but I think she did a solid job for us tonight.”

Despite strong defensive performances from Walker and Justine Schepler, who also set a career-high with 16 digs, NIU gave up runs to EMU in nearly every set.

“They really came and took it to us,” Gooden said. “We had a chance to win the first set, and that probably would have helped us a lot more. We didn’t. We should have lost the second set, but we came back and won that. Then after that, they had runs in the beginning of the third and fourth sets that we just couldn’t recover from.”

NIU’s loss was preceded by a dominating effort against CMU (7-6, 0-2 MAC) Friday. Winning in straight sets, 25-19, 27-25, 25-23, the Huskies outhit CMU .339 to .253, with Wicinski and Allison McGlaughlin hitting over .400 combining for 36 kills, 14 digs and four aces.

The win was Gooden’s 100th conference win as head coach for the Huskies. He is now 100-90 in MAC play and 96-54 at home.

With a tough conference season finally under way, NIU knows the importance of improving from every match.

“I think now we know conference is going to be a lot harder,” Walker said. “We’re ready for it. I’d say we need to pick up our serve – receive a little bit and play at our tempo.”