DeKALB — The volleyball team kicked off Mid-American Conference play splitting games against Central Michigan University and Eastern Michigan University.
Head Coach Ray Gooden said his team is learning from every match played including during the Huskies' opening MAC matches.
“I thought we played better in some fashions," Gooden said. " [We] played a better match against CMU than EMU, but we were opportunistic when we needed to.”
Before the game against CMU, junior libero Miranda Karlen was honored for surpassing the 1,000 kill mark her career.
“It means a lot," Karlen said. "It's been incredible being here, there has been a lot of highs and lows. I think this year especially working on finding those highs and coming together as a team.”
NIU got off to a fast start against CMU in the first set scoring seven points on the first nine volleys. The Huskie lead did not last as CMU took a 16-6 run to take the lead 18-15 toward the end of the set.
CMU went on to win the set 25-23, led by junior outside hitter Kalina Smith with six kills and two digs. NIU’s top performer was Tilly with four kills and a hitting percentage of .250.
The intensity level picked up in the second set as there were five ties and three lead changes. NIU took control of the set after a 9-3 run midway through the second set, giving it a 17-11 lead.
CMU made a late push in the second set but it was not enough as the Huskies won the set 25-23. Tilly again led the way for the Huskies with six kills, and Karlen had a set-high eight digs.
Both teams struggled in the third set, combining for 16 attack errors. CMU went on to win the set 25-21 to a 2-1 advantage in the match.
First-year opposite side and outside hitter Anna Erickson led the way for the Chippewas with three kills. NIU’s top performer in set three was first-year outside hitter Kaitlyn Bell with four kills.
CMU dominated in the fourth and final set of the match with a hitting percentage of .370 and 13 kills. On the other side of the net, NIU struggled with a hitting percentage of -.029 and 10 attack errors.
Sophomore outside hitter Sierra Gray led the way for CMU with four kills and three digs. Bell was the top performer for the Huskies in the fourth set with two kills.
Both teams came out with a high intensity level to start the match and combined for six ties and three lead changes.
NIU had match highs in hitting percentage with .308 and in kills with 16. NIU also played well defensively with four blocks as a team.
NIU went on to win the first set 25-17 led by Tilly who had six kills with a hitting percentage of .500. EMU’s top performer was redshirt senior middle blocker Cassie Haut with six kills and a hitting percentage of .556.
EMU bounced back winning the second set 25-17, boasting a team match high .333% hitting percentage and 16 kills. While EMU flourished, the Huskies struggled in the set with a match-high eight attack errors and .053 hitting percentage.
Haut led the way for the Eagles with five kills in the set, and senior libero Camille Schomer had seven digs. NIU’s top performers were Tilly with four kills and sophomore defensive specialist Kennedy Shelly with five digs.
NIU retook the momentum in the third set with 14 kills as a team and a hitting percentage of .268. The Huskies continued to control the net as they had two team blocks in the set.
NIU went on to win the set 25-18 led by Bell with four kills and one dig. EMU’s top performer was junior outside hitter Franki Strefling with five kills.
NIU closed out the match winning the fourth and final set 25-22, as Tilly, Bell and junior middle blocker Kennedy Wallace all had four kills. Karlen had a solid set as well with nine digs, finishing with 18 digs.
NIU will be back on the court 6 p.m. Friday against Ball State University at Worthen Arena in Muncie, Indiana.