DeKALB, Illinois – The Northern Illinois University volleyball team saw their four-game winning streak interrupted Thursday night by Green Bay Phoenix in a 3-1 loss (21-25, 25-20, 18-25, 22- 25) to Victor E. Court.
“We knew Green Bay was going to be one of the toughest teams we were going to play so far this year, and they did a really good job winning the tough games,” said the head coach. Ray gooden. “It was a good experience for our children to learn and I hope it will help us get into the conference game better.”
First year intermediate blocker Charli Atiémo (Milford, Mich. / Farmington Hills Mercy) led the Huskies with a season-high 18 kills, hitting 0.310 for the game. Jasmine kemp (DeKalb, Ill./DeKalb) also recorded double-digit eliminations with 11 and a six-block record. Katie Jablonski (Elburn, Ill./New Hampshire) had eight kills and added 14 digs. Setter Grace Balensiefer (Lafayette, Ind./McCutcheon) had a double-double with 42 assists and 12 digs, adding a record three aces on service.
NIU (6-3) took an early 7-3 lead in the first set behind three wins for Jablonski, leading to a time out for Green Bay. The advantage grew to six at 12-6 when Balensiefer called his own number and killed. The Phoenix rallied to move closer to one at 15-14 on back-to-back wins from Alexandra Zakutney. NIU took a 21-19 lead over a Nikolette Nédic (Willowbrook, Ill./Hinsdale Central) kill, but Green Bay has taken over. The Phoenix won the last six points of the set to win 25-21 on an Anna Eaton kill to go 1-0 in the game.
Green Bay (5-6) took a 12-8 lead midway through the second set, with a pair of Calli Gentry aces and an Eaton kill leading to an NIU timeout. The Huskies reduced Green Bay’s lead and moved closer to a point at 17-16 after back-to-back kills from Atiemo. Green Bay came back to take three of the next four points to take a 20-17 lead over a Cora Behnke win. Triggered by a kill from Kemp, NIU responded to the Phoenix’s 6-0 run to finish the first set with an 8-0 run to take the second set. NIU won it 25-20 on a Ella Mihacevich (Brunswick, Ohio / Padua Franciscan) to tie the game in a single set.
“Ella played well tonight and was very good on serve,” said Gooden. “We’ve had some tough times, but I think our team worked to get through it together and that’s what we need. We just need to be able to make some of these tough games more cohesively. “
The Huskies fell 10-5 early in the third set, but used a 9-3 run capped by two kemp kills to take a 14-13 lead. Green Bay responded with a 7-2 run underlined by a block from Gentry and Tiffaly Paalman to move up in 2016. The Phoenix held NIU at -0.017 to win the set 25-18 and move up 2-1 in the game. . In the fourth set, NIU erased a 15-9 deficit to take a 20-19 lead over a Kaitlyn bell (De Soto, Kan./De Soto) kill. Green Bay broke a 21-21 tie with a victory for Shannon Coughlin, then won three of the next four points to win the set 25-22 and the game 3-1.
After hitting 0.289 in the first set, the Huskies ended the game with just 0.139. Green Bay reached 0.269 for the game and retained a 75-68 advantage on recovery as well as an 8-7 advantage in blocks. Zakutney led all players with 21 kills while Behnke had 15 and 21 digs.
NIU wraps up its no-conference list when the Wisconsin No.2 shows up at sold-out Victor E. Court on Saturday night for a 6 p.m. game. A limited number of tickets will be made available to NIU students for Saturday’s game on a first-come, first-served basis when the gates open at 5pm.
Fans are encouraged to wear black on Saturday night for a blackout. The game will be broadcast on ESPN +.