By Tim Foley, news staff

The Northeastern University volleyball team is off to a slow start, but it will be battle-tested by the time the conference season begins. Tuesday’s home defeat of University of Massachusetts (UMass)Lowell showcased the determination of the Huskies as they battled for a win in five sets.

2014 came to a disappointing end for the Northeastern women, who lost the final seven games of the season and fell short of a conference tournament berth.

With a new season underway, the Huskies (2-7) look to improve on some of last year’s mistakes, but nine games in, they are still struggling to find a rhythm. The women have suffered in the ‘W’ column thus far, losing in straight sets to four different teams. The team has played in two tournaments and both posed challenges for the Huskies. The high level of competition early on will serve as preparation for teams in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).

The Huskies got off to a rough start in the Falcon Classic in Colorado, where they lost to all four opponents, including host Air Force Academy. They returned to the Cabot Center for the home opener on Sept. 1 and lost a tough five-set match against the University of New Hampshire.

“We’ve never hidden or avoided tough competition,” Head Coach Ken Nichols told GoNU.com at the beginning of the season.

Three days later, the team traveled to Texas for the Stephen F. Austin Invitational, where it got its first victory of the year against South Dakota State University.

Setters junior Jamie Bredahland sophomore Kristen Waldingeach totaled at least 30 assists, while sophomore outside hitter Brigitte Burcescu landed a career-high 26 kills in the victory. Bredahl, Walding and Burcescu are all returning starters and crucial components of the team’s attack.

In the tournament opener against Stephen F. Austin State University, Bredahl reached a milestone of her own. The junior captain from Colorado earned her 1,000th career assist.

Bredahl has also had an impact on the back line. In Tuesday’s game against UMass, she added 12 digs in a winning effort.

Libero Natalia Skiba left a difficult void to fill when she graduated last year. Freshman Gabrielle Eyl has stepped in and is beginning to gel in the role. Eyl is averaging 13.8 digsafter the first nine games.

Eyl is one of threefreshmen on the team. Defensive specialist Sherrie Wang and outside hitter Laynie Whitehead have gotten some playing time and should be nice replacements for graduates Megan Kehoe on the backline and hitters Alexa Armstrong and Ava Cramp.

With Kehoe and Skiba gone from the backline, junior libero Ashlee Asada has stepped in and played an important part. The Honolulu native posted 20 or more digs in both of the team’s wins this year.

Another new contributor has been middle blocker Carmen Costa. The sophomore from Los Angeles didn’t get a lot of playing time last season, but has gradually become more influential on the front line since the start of this year. On Tuesday, she started in all five sets, posting nine kills and six blocks.

The Huskies will head to the Columbia Invitational in New York this weekend for three games. The CAA season openson Wednesday, Sept. 23 at home against Hofstra University.

Photo by Brian Bae.