Huskies split weekend series at Buffalo

NIU finishes weekend on top of the MAC despite series split


DeKALB – The NIU volleyball team (11-4, 4-1 MAC) saw its winning streak go up in smoke during their weekend road series against the University at Buffalo Bulls (10-7, 2-3 MAC) on Friday and Saturday at Alumni Arena in Buffalo, New York

NIU opens the weekend in winning style

NIU grabbed its eighth straight victory to begin its road trip to Buffalo, New York, it’s longest trip of the regular season

“It was really nice for our team to come together and get a good win,” Gooden said.

Sophomore middle blocker Charli Atiemo led the game in kills (11) and recorded the second-most total blocks (5).

Communication was vital part of NIU’s commanding victory

“We over-exaggerated our communication today and just talked about everything that was going on on the other side of the net,” outside hitter Nikolette Nedic said. “It really helped us push through and win.”

Friday also served as Nedic’s second match start of the season. Her last start came in NIU’s final match of the Huskie Invitational against the University of Illinois Chicago on Aug. 27.

“It felt really good being back out there,” Nedic said. “I missed being on the court,”

Nedic assumed the Huskies’ starting right side hitter spot on the lineup, which has been primarily occupied by junior middle blocker/outside hitter Emily Dykes. This was a shift away from Nedic’s normal position as an outside hitter.

“I don’t usually play right side, so I was just thrown in there today,” Nedic said. “I feel like I did a really good job setting up the block, getting a few kills and playing off blocker defense.”

Nedic concluded the match with eight kills and four total blocks.

NIU took the first three rallies of the first set off of three consecutive Buffalo attack errors. From there, the Bulls steadily chipped away at the NIU advantage to be within one, 17-16. The Huskies played keep-away with their advantage through the end of the set. A Buffaloservice error and a kill by junior setter Ella Mihacevich gave NIU the first set 25-20.

The Huskies opened the scoring again in the second set after a pair of mistakes by the Bulls. NIU took itself to its largest lead of the set, 19-11. Buffalo then began a scoring push that brought them within two points, down 23-21. UB senior middle blocker Courtney Okwara’s narrowly missed attack attempt brought set point for the Huskies.

Senior outside hitter Katie Jablonski and junior middle blocker Sammi Lockwood teamed up at the net to register the game-winning block. NIU took a dominating 2-0 lead after a 25-21 win in the second set.

The Huskies propelled themselves on a 6-0 scoring run to kick off set No. 3. NIU held the lead firmly for the remainder of the set, only permitting the Bulls to get within three points at 18-15 NIU. The set ended 25-18 in the Huskies’ favor to complete the sweep.

“We just wanted to focus on that and expose some of their weaknesses and it ended up being in our favor.

“We knew what we needed to do to be successful and to be able to close out sets,” Atiemo said. “We took a deep breath, realized what we needed to do, how to do it effectively and it wasn’t a problem.”

Friday’s results marked NIU’s eighth consecutive win. The Huskies have defeated three different conference rivals four games into the conference slate.

“I’m really excited just to keep this win streak going on if we can,” Atiemo said. “We’re  in a good position to keep being successful the rest of the season, but we’ve still go to handle business (Saturday).”

Gooden’s squad had a short turnaround as they went back to UB campus for another battle with the Bulls on Saturday. Nedic said that having a short turnaround had worked in NIU’s favor recently.

“It’s good for us that we’re playing on back-to-back because we just played them tonight (Friday) and everything’s fresh in our head of what we need to do.”

Buffalo snaps the streak

The Huskies faced their first loss since Sept. 3 as they were swept 3-0 Saturday on the road by Buffalo

The Huskies couldn’t win a set as they went 25-23, 25-22, 25-21.

Junior right side hitter Emily Dykes expressed how being on top of their game is essential.

“We started playing how we usually play towards the end of the sets, but we just need to be consistent the entire game,” Dykes said.

NIU’s eight-game winning streak dated back to Sept. 9, when they defeated the University of Missouri-Kansas City Roos. Since then, the Huskies won seven games straight.

Head coach Ray Gooden believes Buffalo did its job at defending home court.

“We’re not surprised that we lost because Buffalo is capable of winning,” Gooden said. “They are a physical team and played really well today.”

NIU couldn’t stop UB sophomore outside hitter Katrin Trebichavska in the first set as she recorded nine kills. Trebichavska led the game in kills with 14.

Huskies trailed behind the game as they couldn’t match Buffalo’s aggressiveness on the court.

“They played physical and efficient volleyball tonight, and we were always a step behind,” Gooden said. “We were so close at taking a lead and tying the game, but we just couldn’t capitalize.”

The Huskies lacked toughness as Buffalo continued to extend its leads throughout all three sets.

“We weren’t as opportunistic like we were in the past because of the pressure Buffalo put on us,” Gooden said. “We just have to toughen up and get ready for another tough matchup coming up.”

The Huskies finished the weekend with the top spot in the Mid-American Conference. NIU is 11-4 overall and 4-1 in MAC play. The University of Toledo’s (10-5, 3-1 MAC) 3-1 loss to Central Michigan University (10-5, 3-1 MAC) on Friday allowed NIU to leapfrog the Rockets for the top spot in the league.

The Huskies will head back home to play the Bowling Green State University Falcons at 6 p.m. Friday at Victor E. Court