COLUMN: Huskie volleyball needs to find consistency

At 9-10 past the midway point of the season, the Huskies need to find their stride now to contend for a conference title

Senior+setter+Grace+Balensiefer+goes+for+a+spike+against+Air+Force+on+Aug.+28.+Balensiefer+averages+10.8+assists+a+set+this+season.

James Krause | Northern Star

Senior setter Grace Balensiefer goes for a spike against Air Force on Aug. 28. Balensiefer averages 10.8 assists a set this season.

Carlos Finney Jr., Sports Reporter

The NIU volleyball team is halfway through their season and are sitting right in the mix to compete for the Mid-American Conference championship, but a strong finish to the season is just what they need.

At the halfway point in the season, the Huskies have a record of 9-10 with a 3-6 conference record on the season. It has been a very up and down season for the Huskies, but they hope to get over the hump and finish their season strong with nine games remaining on the regular season schedule.

It’s been a very inconsistent season to say the least for the Huskies their longest winning streak has been four games, while their longest losing streak has been three games. 

Leading the way for the Huskies this season has been players such as junior outside hitter Katie Jablonski who leads the team with 231 kills, followed by freshman middle blocker Charli Atiemo who has 181 kills on the season. 

Setting the ball for players like Jablonski and Atiemo is senior setter Grace Balensiefer. Balensiefer has 769 assists on the season and recently became just the fifth NIU setter to reach 3,500 career assists. These three will play a big part in racking up some wins to finish the season for the Huskies.

Head coach Ray Gooden, being in his 20th year, knows what it is going to take for these 2021 Huskies to finish the season on a high note like they want to. 

“We want to be one of the top six teams in the conference before the MAC tournament,” Gooden said. “We want to be one of the top four teams to get a bye and we want to try to do our best to compete for a MAC championship. All of that is still there. It’s a little bit long of a road but we are still excited about the opportunity.”

The Huskies currently sit at fifth in the west division of the MAC behind Ball State University, Western Michigan University, the University of Toledo, and Eastern Michigan University. Out of the entire MAC nothing really changes for the Huskies as they sit in fifth place. 

Conference play is what the Huskies will see for the remaining part of their schedule. Winning the majority of the rest of the nine games the Huskies have will be huge for them in the standings. There isn’t much margin for error for NIU throughout the rest of the season, so the pressure is on. 

Consistency has been the struggle for the Huskies, but there is still a lot left to play for. Halfway through the season, this would be the best time for this team to break through, catch fire and be consistent for the rest of the way through. 

Seven of the Huskies last nine games will be at home, so hopefully the support of the fans will be an energy boost NIU needs to win upcoming conference matchups. 

The Huskies next game against Toledo is at 6 p.m. Friday at Victor E. Court.