Panthers to test 3-0 record against NIU


File Photo | The Daily Eastern News

Members of the Eastern volleyball team celebrate from the bench during a match against IUPUI on Aug. 27 in Lantz Arena. The Panthers won the match 3-0. The victory was the first of a three-match winning streak for the Panthers to open the season.

Adam Tumino, Sports Editor

After a 3-0 start, the Eastern volleyball team will put its unbeaten record to the test against Northern Illinois Thursday evening. 

This will be the Panthers’ fourth-straight home match to open the season. If they win, it will mark the first 4-0 start for Eastern since the 1985 season.

Head coach Sara Thomas said she was proud of the team for its 3-0 start, but there are still things they need to do better against the Huskies. 

“We definitely have some things that we saw that we did really well this weekend, and things that we want to continue to work on, to improve,” she said. “One focus for us has been our serve and pass game, so that will continue to be something that we’re going to work on all the time.”

Northern is off to a strong start as well this season, posting a 2-1 record as hosts of the Huskie Invitational on Aug. 27 and 28. 

The Huskies opened the season with a 3-1 win over Western Illinois, then lost 3-1 to CSU Bakersfield. They bounced back the next day with a 3-0 sweep of Air Force. 

Junior outside hitter Katie Jablonski has led the way offensively for Northern so far. 

Her 3.45 kills per set are the most on the team and rank seventh in the MAC this season. She had 14 kills against Western CSU Bakersfield and added 10 more against Air Force. 

Jablonski also ranks third in the conference in service aces per set (0.82).

Senior setter Grace Balensiefer is averaging 10 assists per set so far, ranking fourth in the MAC. 

Eastern is led by senior outside hitter Danielle Allen with 3.55 kills per set. Setters Summer Smith and Bailey Chandler have split time so far this season, averaging 6.91 and 5.13 assists per set respectively. 

As a team, Eastern is hitting .240 this season, the third-best mark in the OVC, while Northern’s hitting percentage of .191 ranks eighth out of the 11 teams in the MAC. Northern also ranks eighth in opponent hitting percentage (.209).

Eastern is holding its opponents to a hitting percentage of .159 this season, ranking third in the OVC.

The match Thursday will be the first between the Panthers and Huskies since 2000, when Northern won 3-1. 

The programs have played each other 15 times over the years with Northern winning 12 of those matchups, including the last nine in a row. 

The match will begin at 5 p.m. in Lantz Arena. The two teams will also play Saturday in DeKalb. 


Adam Tumino can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]