Bring out the brooms: Volleyball bests Akron to open MAC play

Huskies outscore Zips 75-43 across three sets as NIU rolls to fifth-straight win

DeKALB – NIU volleyball (8-3, 1-0 MAC) became the first team at NIU to win a Mid-American Conference game this season after sweeping the University of Akron Zips (3-9, 0-1 MAC) 3-0 on Friday night at Victor E. Court.

Friday’s result extended the Huskies’ winning streak to five matches.

NIU entered Friday’s match leading 30-10 in the all-time series. The Huskies came out victorious in their last meeting with Akron on Nov. 6, 2021 where they delivered another sweep on the road.

Defense gets it done

Offense proved difficult to come by for the Zips throughout the night. The NIU defense limited Akron to a .095 hitting percentage.

Sophomore middle blocker Charli Atiemo said Friday’s defensive efforts were the accumulation of the team’s hard work in practice.

“It all starts in practice,” Atiemo said. “We have a big focus on blocking balls first and then defense covering around it. I think today, it really showed our hard work paid off.”

Atiemo’s 11 kills, four blocks and service ace helped her become NIU’s scoring leader. The sophomore from Milford, Michigan, accounted for 13.5 of NIU’s 57 points.

Chemistry counts

The cohesiveness of the Huskie squad was apparent in the game

“I think we did really well as a team,” senior outside hitter Brianna “Bina” Scuric said. “It was really cohesive, the way we spoke to each other.”

“Every position knew what they needed to do to help them be successful,” Atiemo added.

NIU makes quick work of Akron

NIU found early success after reaching double digits first with a 10-3 lead. The Huskies continued to roll as they extended their advantage to 18-5 before Akron called for a timeout. The Zips failed to break NIU’s momentum. Back-to-back kills by Scuric began a final surge that led to NIU’s 25-9 set victory.

The Huskies and Zips engaged in a brief scoring battle in the opening stages of set No. 2. A string of Akron attack errors allowed NIU to find its rhythm and spring to a 10-4 lead. Akron steadily regained its composure to get within two points, down 14-12. NIU’s 8-2 scoring run brought them within reach of their second win of the match.

The second set wrapped up with a serve from each side. A service error by Akron redshirt freshman setter Baylee Vought brought about set point. Scuric called the set with her second service ace of the match. The Huskies’ 25-17 victory left them a set away from a win.

A fierce scoring duel dictated the first half of the match’s final set. NIU played the frontrunners in the shootout and later broke away from a 13-13 tie on a 6-0 run. The Zips’ efforts to keep up were unsuccessful after being down seven points and NIU two points away from completing a sweep.

The match-winning point for NIU came off Akron redshirt senior right-side hitter Teagan Ochaya‘s sixth attack error of the night. The Huskies finished the sweep with a 25-17 win in the final set.

What’s next

The series between NIU and Akron will resume at 2 p.m. Saturday at Victor E. Court. The Huskies will have a short turnaround after that as they host the Western Michigan University Broncos (9-4, 1-0 MAC) at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Victor E. Court.

Both matches will be broadcasted online. Saturday’s match will be broadcast on NIUTube. Tuesday’s game will be carried on ESPN+. Live statistics can be monitored at SIDEARM Sports.

Students can enter for free with their NIU OneCard or by claiming their student tickets online. Single-match tickets are available for purchase. Tickets are priced at $6 for the general public, $4 for youths and $3 per ticket for groups of 20 or more.