Volleyball falls to Bobcats on senior night


Northern Star File Photo

Volleyball coach Ray Gooden works with the team during a match last season.

By Waleed Alamleh, Sports Reporter

DeKALB ⎼⎼ The volleyball team lost a pair of matches in straight sets to the Ohio University Bobcats Friday and Saturday to finish off its regular season.

Friday: Ohio 3, NIU 0

The Huskies played a couple hard-fought sets but were outmatched with the Bobcats playing great volleyball from the start. 

The first set of the game saw the Huskies unable to stop an early Bobcats run, putting Ohio up early 10-3. The Bobcats got out to a big lead through the offense of senior right-side hitter Maggie Nedoma who was hitting around and through the Huskies’ blocks all night. 

In the first set alone Nedoma had six kills, including four during the early run, flipping a one-point deficit for the Bobcats into a five-point lead the Huskies would not be able to come back from. The Bobcats hit 50% for the set with 18 total kills to win the first set by a score of 25-17. 

The second set saw the Huskies open on a 4-0 run in part due to  the serving of junior defensive specialist Kennedy Shelley, who recorded two aces in the run, giving NIU an early lead. 

That’s the highest the Huskies’ lead would reach, with the Bobcats cutting into the lead after a 7-3 rally resulting in a one-point Bobcats lead.

After a couple of back-and-forth plays where senior middle blocker Kennedy Wallace got two kills to give the team a one-point lead at 13-12. Bobcats’ middle blocker Tia Jimerson went on a two-kill streak that sparked Ohio’s offense to get the lead to 17-13. 

After a Huskie timeout, the team rallied off two points for a last-ditch effort to win the set, but Bobcats’ junior outside hitter Mariana Rodrigues stopped all momentum for the Huskies, recording four kills to close the set out, including the game-winner, ending the set 25-22. 

The final set of the match was a very close one. Each team played  well, with neither team being able to take more than a one-point advantage for most of the set.

The volleyball team celebrates after its home win against Central Michigan Sept. 30. The Huskies got two wins this weekend to even up their conference record at 3-3. (Northern Star File photo)

The Huskies reached  a 15-11 lead with the help of junior middle blocker Jasmine Kemp, who recorded  five kills during the set. The lead didn’t  last long as the Bobcats went on a four-point run  with Jimerson recording  two more kills on the night, giving her five total for the match and tying the set up at 16. 

The set was close for the Huskies until a 20-20 tie was broken by the Bobcats who went on a 5-1 run to pull out the set and match. 

Saturday: Ohio 3, NIU 0 

The Huskies were unable to win their final match of the season as they were swept in straight sets on the day the team honored two great seniors in middle blocker Kennedy Wallace and defensive specialist Kelsy Turksey on senior day.

Turksey played well throughout the match, recording four digs for the set, which was the third-highest on the team. It has been her effect on the team’s energy and spirit that will be her greatest mark on the volleyball team. 

“I think [Turksey] has been one of the best teammates ever here at NIU,” NIU Head Coach Ray Gooden said. 

As for Wallace, she had one of the stronger games of any Huskie player, recording a team-high 10 kills for the match.

Wallace also added two blocks to finish off her NIU career.

“[Wallace] has grown a lot here over her period of time at NIU,” Gooden said. “ [She] was playing her best volleyball here at the end.” 

Wallace was a focal point of the team this season, starting in 18 matches and recording 156 kills for the year. 

NIU struggled to start the match, as the team started with a hitting percentage of 6% for the set compared to the Bobcats’ 32%. Other than an early 3-0 lead by the Huskies, the set was controlled by the Bobcats, which amassed a 10-point lead at one point.

The Huskies’ offense struggled through much of the set due to the self-inflicted errors which cost them the first set. NIU had seven and service errors combined which resulted in a 25-15 set loss. 

 The Bobcats set the tone early in the second half behind senior middle backer Tia Jimerson, who was dominant for the whole match. 

Jimerson had a set-high seven kills and was hitting at great angles. Jimerson played her best when going away from the middle of the net.

“[Jimerson] is one of the most impressive athletes in our league,” Gooden said. “We had a matchup early [Friday] we thought she did a really good, we made a change to slow her down a little bit and tonight the same thing they made an adjustment and instead of running balls straight at Jasmine Kemp they ran balls wide.” 

The adjustment was one that paid off for the Bobcats. Jimerson had a whopping 19 kills for the entire game and was a big reason for the Bobcats’ commanding play in the first two sets. 

 The Huskies saved their best play for the third set, as the team got out to an early 10-7 lead. 

The defense started to pick up, as Kemp recorded two early blocks during the run.  

The Bobcats kept fighting back, tying the game at two different points in the set, first at 15 and again at 20. 

After the Huskies squandered another three-point lead, NIU battled back after junior outside hitter Katie Jablonski recorded a kill and an ace, giving them a two point advantage. 

Ohio would again tie the set and eventually take the lead as Jimerson added two more kills to her total, helping spark a 5-1 Bobcats run that ended NIU’s chance of victory. The Huskies fell 25-23 in the set. 

The Huskies end their season with an 8-14 record. The team didn’t end with the results they were looking for, yet there is optimism for what the future holds.

“We’ve got a lot of pieces and we’re going to look to get better and improve as a group,” Gooden said.

The Mid-American Conference will be hosting its championship tournament Friday and Saturday in Bowling Green, Ohio, featuring a four-team bracket. The first-seeded Bowling Green State University Falcons will face the fourth seeded- University of Miami–Ohio RedHawks. The second-seeded Western Michigan University Broncos will face third-seeded Ohio.