Volleyball earns road MAC win in five-set match

Sophomore setter Grace Balensiefer goes up for a tip Aug. 30 during an eventual 3-1 loss to Southern Illinois University – Edwardsville at Victor E. Court in the Convocation center in DeKalb. 

DeKALB — The volleyball team stands alone in third place in the Mid-American Conference West division after a win against the Western Michigan University Broncos. The Huskies and Broncos entered the day tied for the third place spot, as both teams had a record of 2-2.

The Huskies defeated the Broncos in both meetings last season, winning in four sets Sep. 27, 2018 and five sets Oct. 31, 2018

Head Coach Ray Gooden talked about the success he's had against WMU.

“We respect [WMU] to highest, I think we have had positives with it lately, but there has been a fair amount of luck with things going our way,” Gooden said. “Just like last night things went our way, especially in the final set, but definitely every time we play some of our best volleyball.”

Both teams came out firing on all cylinders in the first set, as there were six ties and three lead changes. NIU went on to win the set 25-17 with a team match-high hitting percentage of .308 and 11 kills.

WMU shrugged off the cobwebs in the second set in commanding fashion with a team match-high hitting percentage of .441. Though the Broncos commanded the majority of the set, the Huskies played well as a team with a hitting percentage of .273. The Broncos took the second set 25-22.

NIU took a 2-1 set lead after edging out the Broncos 25-20 in the third set, with a team hitting percentage .137 and a team match-low seven kills.

The Broncos rebounded in the fourth set, winning 25-20 with match-high 20 kills with a .377 kill percentage. The Huskies’ hitting struggles continued in fourth set, as they had a match low hitting percentage of .094.

However, the Huskies regained their stride in the final set, winning 15-8 and compiled a .304 hitting percentage as a team.

Peyton Tilly, first-year outside hitter, led the way for the Huskies with 14 kills with a hitting percentage of .146 in the match. WMU’s top performer was junior outside hitter Rachel Bontrager, with 16 kills and one service ace.

Sophomore setter Grace Balensifer made huge contributions for the Huskies as well recording her second double-double of the year with 35 assists and 15 digs.

Gooden talked about how Balensifer’s play had benefited from the hard work she puts in during practice.

“Grace has worked on her game to improve a bunch, I think trying to be one of the quarterbacks of our team,” Gooden said. “It takes a lot of dedication and time spent and I think the team plays well with her and hard for her.”

The Huskies’ next match is 6 p.m Saturday against Miami University – Ohio at Victor E. Court in the Convocation Center in DeKalb.

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