Volleyball veterans fighting to finish on top

Seniors seek postseason berth before swan song

From+left%3A+Freshman+middle+blocker+Sarah+Lezon%2C+sophomore+defensive+specialist+Jada+Cerniglia%2C+senior+outside+hitters+Kaitlyn+Bell%2C+Brianna+Scuric+and+freshman+outside+hitter+Nazli+G%C3%BCvener+cheer+from+courtside+during+NIU+volleyballs+match+against+Central+Michigan+University+on+Friday.+%28Mingda+Wu+%7C+Northern+Star%29

Mingda Wu

From left: Freshman middle blocker Sarah Lezon, sophomore defensive specialist Jada Cerniglia, senior outside hitters Kaitlyn Bell, Brianna Scuric and freshman outside hitter Nazli Güvener cheer from courtside during NIU volleyball’s match against Central Michigan University on Friday. (Mingda Wu | Northern Star)

By Skyler Kisellus, Sports Editor

Senior outside hitters Brianna “Bina” Scuric and Kaitlyn “Kat” Bell, the two longest-tenured players on NIU volleyball’s roster, are working to make a late-season push to end their college careers with a bang.

Scuric and Bell are near the end of their fourth and final season at NIU. The Huskies’ departing senior class is comprised of Scuric, Bell and senior outside hitter Katie Jablonski, who transferred in before Bell and Scuric’s sophomore year.

To see what they’ve all become from the first time that I’ve seen them in their own separate storylines is the biggest level of pride.”

— Head volleyball coach Ray Gooden

“My time here has been really fun, just because of the relationships I’ve made with the girls,” Scuric said. “Making really fun memories in the last four years has been probably, like, the best thing for me. I guess I learned a lot about who I am and how to be a person over an athlete, which has been cool.”

Bell said her experience at NIU has given her skills that have helped her as a person and a player.

“Being a student-athlete, I’ve learned multiple skills to take forth in the future and work and in the real world and learning time management,” Bell said.

Bell’s experience at NIU has also helped her find comfort with others.

“It’s been so fun and very…stress relieving, especially living with people that I’m comfortable being around, being myself and stuff,” Bell said. “It’s made this journey really great.”

A vocal player from all spots

Scuric makes her presence known on and off the court, being a loud supporter of her teammates whether she’s playing alongside them or watching from the sideline.

“There’s just a uniqueness about Bina (Scuric) that makes you smile,” head coach Ray Gooden said. “You enjoy your interactions with her…I know that the team’s going to miss her just for everything, whether it’s on the court or off the court, those types of interactions.”

Senior outside hitters Brianna Scuric (left) and Katie Jablonski awaiting an attack from Ball State University during the Huskies’ first match against the team on Oct. 15 at Victor E. Court. (Alyssa Queen)

Over her three seasons of game action as a Huskie, Scuric has logged 152 kills, 27 service aces and a hitting percentage of 0.101.

Gooden said Scuric has played her best volleyball at NIU this season. Her career-highs in all major statistical categories (kills, assists, points, ace, digs and total blocks) were achieved this season.

“The coolest thing about Bina (Scuric) is just her willingness to be a good teammate,” Gooden said. “She’s very outspoken but she’s also very supportive. It’s nice to have a voice and an energy like Bina on our team.”

Well-rounded and passionate

“She came in as a talented athlete and has gained the ability to play complete volleyball over her period of time here,” Gooden said.

One of Bell’s best statistical seasons was her freshman year in 2019. She recorded 267 digs in 30 matches and had a 0.133 hitting percentage. Her career totals sit at 259 sets played, 84 matches played, 557 kills and a 0.152 hitting percentage.

“There’s some quirky in her but there’s also so much, you know, passion for what she believes in.” Gooden said. “And so much conviction when she plays so I think you want to have people as energetic as Kat Bell is when she’s on the court.

It’s not the moment, it’s the story

While Gooden isn’t one to get wrapped up in moments, his pride for his seniors comes from watching their NIU stories play out.

“To see what they’ve all become from the first time that I’ve seen them in their own separate storylines is the biggest level of pride…They leave NIU with, I feel, a lot of respect from their teammates,” Gooden said. “I think they can all be proud of the fact that they, for the time they put in, will help us get better looking forward.”

The desire to end on the right note

With one home match left to play, NIU’s seniors are up against the clock to finish strong at home and help secure a berth to the Mid-American Conference Tournament in late November.

“I think we all have a sense of urgency now,” Scuric said. “Being seniors, we all want to end on a good note and put everything into every last match we can. Just to get it all out there and know that we did our best and we put forth the most effort we could.”

NIU will recognize its three seniors at 1:45 p.m. Saturday at Victor E. Court before its final match of the series against Central Michigan University.

Scuric intends to graduate with a master’s degree in dietetics and hopes to become a registered dietitian, though she said she’s not sure where that will be yet. Bell, a family social services major, has a desire to be an advocate for domestic violence victims after graduation.