Ball State complete weekend sweep of volleyball

The+volleyball+team+huddles+during+the+first+set+of+their+matchup+on+Sept.+18+against+Wisconsin.+

Erin Barker | Northern Star

The volleyball team huddles during the first set of their matchup on Sept. 18 against Wisconsin.

Waleed Alamleh, Sports Reporter

DeKALB—The NIU volleyball team could not win a set during its two-game road trip against the Ball State University Cardinals, losing Saturday 3-0. 

The Huskies got off to a good start in the first set with back-to-back kills from junior outside Katie Jablonski and freshman middle blocker, giving them a 2-0 lead. The Cardinals would respond with a 5-0 run, led by freshman setter Megan Wielonski. Wielonski started off the run with an ace, she was responsible for two straight attack errors by the Huskies, giving the Cardinals a 5-2 lead. 

The Huskies went on a 5-2 run behind two kills freshman outside Nikolette Nedic, tying the game 7-7. Nedic has stepped up as a real offensive threat in the past couple of games for the Huskies. Nedic ended with a game-high 14 kills. 

“(Nedic’s) continuing to get more comfortable and understanding of what’s going on,” head coach Ray Gooden said in a Saturday NIU Athletics news release. ”She was put in a more challenging role tonight, and she did a solid job of taking risks and just going for it.” 

The Cardinals responded with sophomore middle blocker Lauren Gilliland using a free ball from the Huskies to put down a kill, sparking an 8-1 run. The Cardinals took a 15-8 lead into the media timeout. The teams traded a couple of points before an attack error by the Huskies, and a kill by Gilliand stretched the lead 18-10 and forced an NIU timeout. 

The Cardinals closed out the Huskies on a 7-4 run, led by the Cardinals graduate student outside hitter Jaclyn Bulmahn. Bulmahn had four of her team-high 11 kills during this stretch to give the Cardinals a 25-14 set win. 

The Cardinals got off to a hot start in the second set. Ball State junior outside Natalie Mitchem, Bulmahn and Gilliland each recorded a kill.

After trading a couple of points, Huskies freshmen middle blockers Charli Atiemo and Stella Barr each recorded a kill to keep the game at arms reach at 8-5. The closest the Huskies would get to the Cardinals came after a kill by junior setter Grace Balensiefer, coming within a point at 10-9. 

The Cardinals used another huge offensive run to take back control of the set. The run started with back-to-back kills by Bulmahn and Mitchem. Wilenoski then aced the Huskies defense two plays in a row, pushing the Cardinals to a 14-9 lead and leading to an NIU time out. 

The Huskies deficit only got bigger following the break. A kill by Wielonski and a bad set by Balenciefer forced the Huskies to burn their final timeout. The Cardinals finished the set 25-14.

The third set was one of the most competitive of the season for the Huskies. NIU and Cardinals had twelve different lead changes throughout the entire set. 

The Cardinals took the biggest lead when they got three straight kills to take a 16-13 lead at the media timeout. 

With the game tied at 21-21, the Cardinals finally broke through with back-to-back scoring plays to take a 23-21 lead. 

The Huskies kept on fighting, with Nedic getting a kill to cut the lead back to one. The Cardinals blocked Nedic’s next attempt.

Nedic came back with her 14th and final kill of the match before Cardinals junior middle blocker Marie Plitt got the game-winning kill, breaking the Huskies’ hearts and ending the game 25-23. The Huskies left it all out there in the final set, something their coach appreciated. 

“We’re lucky to play at a level that puts us in contention in the Midwest American Conference,” Gooden said. “I saw a good third set from our group today, and we were just a play away from a fourth set.”

The Huskies return to DeKalb for the start of a four-game stand at 6 p.m. Friday at Victor E. Court, when they take on the University of Toledo Rockets.