Volleyball splits weekend series with Golden Flashes

NIU drops to 8-11 on the season


Northern Star File Photo

Volleyball gets swept in Western Kentucky tournament

By Waleed Alamleh, Sports Reporter

DeKALB ⎼ The NIU women’s volleyball team split a pair of matches Friday and Saturday against the Kent State University Golden Flashes.

Friday: NIU 3, Kent State 2

The team got back in the win column Friday after defeating Kent State in a very competitive five-set match, which saw the Huskies battle back from a 2-1 set deficit. 

The first set of the match didn’t start in the Huskies’ favor as the team went down by as many as eight points to the Golden Flashes. The deficit came off of the Golden Flashes offensive success led by sophomore outside hitter Savannah Matthews.

Matthews had the Huskies’ number, recording seven of her 20 kills for the match in the first set. It wasn’t until the end of the set when NIU started to step up, bringing an eight-point Kent State lead down to just one, with the score of 24-23. 

The surge came off the Huskies’ defense, which started to getblocks in-front of  the net, swinging all the momentum back towards the Huskies.’ However, NIU didn’t come out on top in the set, after junior middle blocker Danie Tyson put down the game-winner for the Golden Flashes. 

The second set saw the Huskies win rather convincingly by a score of 25-18. The team’s offense and defense were clicking this set; the Huskies hit nearly 40% on their kill attempts. 

The strong effort on defense came from NIU’s middle blockers, junior Jasmine Kemp and senior Kennedy Wallace, whose presence kept Matthews in check during the set, holding her to four kills. This helped the Huskies build an eight-point lead of their own, which would be too much for the Golden Flashes to come back.

The third set saw sloppy play from both teams. Neither hit the ball particularly well in the set, as NIU hit on 4% of their attempts, while the Golden Flashes hit just 7%. The Huskies had a four point lead early that slowly trickled away as the set continued. The lack of offense was alarming as the Golden Flashes went on a 9-2 run caused by Huskie errors totaling 11 in the set. 

The Golden Flashes were eventually able to pull out a victory for the set, winning 25-2.The Huskies, now down two sets to one, came out strong in the fourth led by sophomore outside Katie Jablonski who tallied an additional six kills to her team high 16 for the match. Jablonski helped ignite the Huskies offense, which had its best set of the match hitting 45% of it’s kill attempts. This helped the Huskies win the set 25-22 and force a fifth set. 

The fifth set came down to an all around team game as the Huskies got strong play from multiple players like sophomore libero Samantha Juarez and junior defensive specialist Kelsi Turksey who each had aces in the set. But the strongest play came from junior right side JoDee Kovanda who had two block assists and three kills including the final two giving the Huskies the match win. 

“What tonight shows is that you can play good team volleyball and not rely on someone’s individual numbers to get the win,” Head Coach Ray Gooden said. “We needed a full team effort and got it tonight.” 

Saturday: NIU 0, Kent State 3

NIU lost to the Kent State Golden Flashes Saturday in straight sets.The match was much more competitive than the final results led on as the Huskies lost each set by only two points. The first set actually saw the team out hit the Golden Flashes by two, but the team only connected on 16% of their attempts. NIU hit so low because of the stout defense of the Golden Flashes, particularly from junior middle blocker Lana Strejcek as she had four blocks in the set making it hard for the Huskies to put any down. 

With the Golden Flashes down 22-23, it was Strejcek who willed them to the win as she blocked four straight Huskie attempts resulting in points and the first set win for the Golden Flashes with a 26-24 win. 

The second set was another tough loss for the team as they got out to an early seven point lead off the play of sophomore JoDee Kovanda who had three kills and two blocks during this stretch to give the team a commanding 17-10 lead that did not last. 

The team could not continue the strong play for the set as the momentum started to swing when the Golden Flashes sophomore right side Morgan Copley got two back to back kills along with freshman outside Ma’a Maluhai who got another two kills that cut the Huskie lead to just four.

The team struggled to get back to the level of play that got them their lead. With the score at 23-19 the Huskies own errors is what put the Golden Flashes back in the game as the Huskies had three service errors and multiple attack errors down the stretch, allowing the Golden Flashes to tie the game 25-25. After another kill from MaIuhai it was the serving of the Golden Flashes middle blocker Danie Tyson who iced the game with an ace to take the second set 27-25.

Volleyball coach Ray Gooden works with the team during a match last season.
(Northern Star File Photo)

The third set of the match was a back and forth one for the entirety of the game as there were a total of 10 lead changes for the set. After going up by five mid way through the set the team made a run behind the play of sophomore outside Katie Jablonski who had nine of her game high 16 kills during the set as the team was able to comeback and tie the game at 20-20. 

The scoring would then keep bouncing back and forth as neither team could separate themselves down the stretch, until the Golden Flashes junior right side Melissa Kolurbasi completely took over, getting three straight kills for them and giving them a one point lead at 26-25. Huskies junior setter Grace Balensiefer was unable to tie the game as her kill attempt landed just out of bounds, giving the Golden Flashes the win in a very close third set and a match victory. 

The team will play at 4 p.m. Tuesday traveling to Kalamazoo, Michigan for another matchup against the first place Western Michigan Broncos.