By Tim Foley, news staff
The league season is nearing its halfway point, and the Northeastern University (NU) women’s volleyball team continued its road trip over the weekend, losing in four sets to both James Madison University (JMU) and Towson University.
“We’ve played a robust and difficult out-of-conference strength of schedule,” Head Coach Ken Nichols said. “I think we scheduled so that we’d be prepared for matches like these two. And for two sets in each match, the preparation was worthwhile, and in the other two sets, we struggled.”
In both matches, the Huskies fought back to win the third set and came within two points of winning a second frame, but the women were unable to perform like that for the entire match.
“It doesn’t take a lot to lose 25-19,” Nichols said. “In a set that goes 25-19, if three other points go your way… you played 44 points, if three go your way, you’re tied.”
On Friday against JMU, the Huskies lost two sets 25-19. This season, the Huskies have had a hard time getting the score to swing in their favor. The team lost its last four games, bringing its overall record to 4-17 and Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) record to 1-5.
Northeastern got off to a rough start against the Dukes (16-3, 6-0 CAA). Trailing 5-0, the Huskies had to climb out of an early hole.
A kill from junior setter Jamie Bredahl brought the score within two, but JMU scored the next five points to take control.
“We tend to get into slumps where we let the opposing team run points on us, and then we end up having to battle back just to dig ourselves out of the hole we just put ourselves in,” senior outside hitter Cherylain Dizon said in an email to The News.
The Huskies looked better in the second, erasing a five-point deficit to take a 21-19 lead, but JMU’s junior right side Janey Goodman landed three kills and the Dukes won the set 25-23.
Nichols called Goodman “one of the best in the conference.” She had 20 kills against the Huskies on Friday.
Northeastern played its strongest set of the match in the third, battling to win 27-25.
The Huskies displayed a balanced attack, drawing at least three kills each from outside hitters Dizon and Brigitte Burcescu, middle blocker Carmen Costa and middle hitter Caterina Rosander.
“At times we can play with anybody in conference, there’s no doubt about it,” Nichols said.
Unfortunately for the Huskies, they were unable to bring that momentum into the fourth set. Despite five kills from Dizon, Northeastern lost the set 25-19 to finish the match. Dizon led the team along with Burcescu, both with 12 kills against JMU.
“The best part of the weekend, I think, was Cheri really coming out of her shell and making a name for herself against the likes of James Madison,” Nichols said. “These are two robust, substantial blockers and Cheri just had a day. And so this is what we want from our lone senior.”
Dizon went on to lead the team in kills again on Sunday, and she did it while still battling a lower-body injury from last week.
Having played the last three games on the road, the entire team was dealing with fatigue.
“There was a phrase I used to use all the time – ‘get off the bus,’” Nichols said. “Where you’re on the road and travel is wearing on you and aches and pains – it’s like, ‘Okay now it’s time to go to work.’ And so that’s not atypical for a team on the road.”
The Huskies had a tough time “getting off the bus” at Towson on Sunday. The Tigers (18-2, 5-1 CAA) won eight of the last nine points to take the first set 25-17 and rolled into the second, winning 25-16 to take a 2-0 lead in the match.
Once again, Northeastern looked crisp in the third.
Dizon landed six kills, and Bredahl ended the set with back-to-back points – a kill and a service ace – to lift the Huskies 26-24.
The Northeastern women fought hard in the fifth and had a set point opportunity, but Towson tied the score and registered two straight service aces to win the set 28-26.
“We are so close to winning each time, which is frustrating, but we are able to turn the frustration into fuel for the next match,” Dizon said. “At each practice, we have at least one improvement or goal that we work toward. I have noticed that our serve-receive has improved and because of that, our hitting has become more terminal.”
The Huskies will take on the University of Delaware on Sunday at 1 p.m. and will make up their match against the College of Charleston at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.
The game was originally planned for Oct. 4 before weather forced it to be pushed back.
Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics