Volleyball to face Ball State, Toledo on the road

By Mike Romor

NIU volleyball heads west this weekend for its first pair of MAC road matches.

The Huskies (12-4, 1-1 MAC) will travel to Muncie, Ind. to face off against Ball State (13-2, 2-0) Friday.

NIU looks to rebound from a grueling home loss to Eastern Michigan Saturday. The Huskies hope to continue their perfection on the road this season. NIU boasts a 5-0 record in road affairs thus far.

The task will not be easy, as Ball State comes into Friday’s match with a 3-0 home record. The Cardinals have a four-match winning streak and seem to have carried their momentum over from last season’s MAC Championship run.

“It’s really important for us to go out there and give it our best,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “I think if we’re just seeking results we can get ourselves in trouble. But if we can go out there and work very hard with our best effort the results will take care of themselves.”

Led by dominating middle blocker Kelsey Brandl, Ball State has outhit opponents .257 to .170 this season. The Cardinals have been even more impressive in their two conference matches, outhitting opponents .278 to .143 while averaging five more kills per set.

Brandl, a two time All-MAC selection, will have her hands full with a very potent NIU offense that ranks as the best in the NCAA in kills per set (15.15) and assists per set (14.17).

Sophomore Lauren Wicinski leads the attack for NIU and comes off of a season-high 27 kills against EMU. Wicinski ranks first nationally in kills (268)and points per set (6.35) and is third in aces per set (.62).

Senior Kristin Hoffman has run the NIU offense to near perfection this season and is tied for first in the nation with 12.34 assists per set.

After the potential slugfest in Muncie, the Huskies will venture to Ohio to play Toledo.

Toledo (6-8, 1-1) has lost eight of its last 11 matches and looks to get back on track during its first conference home stand of the season.

NIU owns the overall series lead against the Rockets, winning 30 of 39 matches between the two schools, but NIU has dropped its last two road matches in Toledo in five sets.

Gooden and the Huskies know the importance of the upcoming matches, and Gooden has consistently preached that his team needs one thing in order to come through with a victory.

“We need to stay consistent,” Gooden said. “We weren’t as consistent as we needed to be the past weekend, and Eastern [Michigan] did a good job of taking us away from our game. Ball State and Toledo will do the same thing so we have to worry about our side a lot more. If we can do that, we have a good chance of being successful.”