DeKALB — The Northern Illinois University’s women’s volleyball team faced a reality check on the second day of the NIU Invitational. Two teams from two power conferences came into the Convention Center to face the Huskies in two competitive matches.
NIU dropped the opening match Saturday against Colorado 3-2 then was shutout 3-0 by Northwestern in the nightcap match. Huskies head coach Ray Gooden described the day in one word — challenging.
“We had really good challenges against really good teams,” Gooden said. “We knew that we would have to play really solid to beat them. We came really close against Colorado and at times against Northwestern, we were doing it.”
Mackenzie Roddy, who led the Huskies with 40 kills on the day, said that the day saw some nice stretches from NIU and they learned a lot from the competitive contests.
“We had really good moments of really competitive volleyball. Our match against Colorado was really high energy and really a battle,” Roddy said. “The day on the whole was positive. We found some room to grow and things to get better at, so we will get better.”
That first game against Colorado was a five-game thriller that saw the Huskies lead by six in the final game. The Buffaloes went on a 13-to-4 run to close out the match. NIU made a few errors down stretch that might have cost them the game.
“Every game is a learning experience,” junior setter Alexis Gonzalez said. “In order to get where you want to be, sometimes you have to fail, so this day was our learning experience and we are just going to use this when we get into practice.”
In the second game, Northwestern was a par above NIU. The Wildcats won all three games by at least three points and had major stretches in each game that showed they could rally consistently. In the two games, Northwestern rallied off 7-point streaks twice.
Coach Gooden knows that his team needs to improve on taking the momentum.
“It a momentum game, you know? We weren’t able to hold onto the momentum,” the coach said. “They had a run back on us and that was the biggest thing. That is youth against experience.”
Gonzalez finished the day with total of 75 assists. Mary Grace Kelly had 21 kills on the day. Nan Brereton held down the defense with a total of 25 digs. The Huskies travel to the Iowa State Challenge next weekend
“We know that we are making positive steps,” Gooden said. “We know that we have a good enough group to be competitive and have some positive things. Now, we have to work through the fact the novelty has worn off and now we have to play.”