DeKALB — Facing top programs in the nation, the volleyball team dropped three matches at the Dayton Invitational.
The Huskies first faced Dayton University Friday and lost to the Flyers 3-0. NIU faced University of Michigan after and were shutout 3-0.
NIU’s best performance of the invitational was against University of Missouri, but lost to the Tigers 3-1.
Head Coach Ray Gooden said his team experienced a lot of challenging situations that can be positive for the team later on in the season. Gooden said these games help prepare for Mid-American Conference matches.
“This stuff helps us get ready for conference because it’s going to be a tough stretch,” Gooden said. “We want to do our best each and every time out.”
The Huskies tallied 31 errors in three matches, but have improved since the beginning of the season. Gooden said his team had moments of solid volleyball with little errors, but in order to compete against top quality programs the team has to do better.
“We have to play cleaner volleyball [and] being more efficient,” Gooden said. “We have to be more consistent in our play. I thought today in our match against Missouri we did those things.”
NIU’s next match will be in DeKalb when the Huskies take on Texas Tech University 12 p.m. Monday at Victor E. Court.
The Huskies will have a three day break before they travel to San Antonio to play in the Incarnate Word Tournament on Friday and Saturday.
“It’s a chance for us to get better,” Gooden said. “We’re going through a stretch with a lot of volleyball but its the best way for us to learn. It’s a tough turn around but we are definitely looking forward to the challenge.”
The Huskies opened the invitational against Dayton 11:30 a.m. Friday and fell to the Flyers in three sets 25-19, 25-18, 25-20.
NIU put up a fight with 32 kills out of 97 total attempts. However, the Huskies tallied 14 errors, double that of Dayton.
Sophomore setter Grace Balensiefer totaled 22 assists for the Huskies, which fell short of Dayton’s 29 team assist.
First-year outside hitter Kaitlyn Bell posted eight kills, leading the Huskies and second for the match behind Jamie Peterson, Dayton’s redshirt sophomore outside hitter. Sophomore middle blocker Jasmine Kemp finished second in kills with the Huskies. Kemp posted her season’s third-best six kills.
Junior libero Miranda Karlen and sophomore defensive specialist Shelley Kennedy tied for the team lead with nine digs
The Huskies faced the Wolverines in their second match of the day and not much was different. Michigan took care of the Huskies in three sets 25-19, 25-18, 25-9.
Michigan more than doubled the Huskies’ 21 kills, but not much separated the teams in attempts. The Huskies attempted 68 attacks while Michigan completed 46 of 80.
Errors were a factor for NIU, as it racked 15 errors.
Bell and Wallace led the Huskies offense with eight and seven kills respectively. Balensiefer posted 19 assists.
NIU’s defense was on its toes all match long, as it finished with 21 digs and three blocks, while Karlen finished with seven digsMichigan’s offense was anchored by senior setter Mackenzi Welsh who posted 39 assists, and first-year middle blocker Jess Robinson who had nine kills.
The Huskies faced the Tigers in the closing match of the invitational and went out with a fight. Missouri took match one 25-11 before NIU snuck a 25-22 win. The Tigers went on to win the following two sets 25-20, 25-17.
NIU won its first set of the Dayton Invitational with its invitational-best kill percentage in a set with .469.
First-year outside hitter Peyton Tilly led the Huskies in kills with 11 followed by Wallace who had 10.
Balensiefer posted her highest assist count of the tournament with 31 assists.
The Huskies managed to minimize their errors but still surpassed the double-digit mark with 12.
Missouri tallied 67 kills, 26 from junior outside hitter Kylie Deberg. Redshirt sophomore setter Andrea Fuentes gave 49 assists for the Tigers and redshirt senior libero Riley Sents finished with 10 digs.