The women struggled to find their stride in their opener against Drake University, dropping the first two sets. The Huskies took command in the third, winning 25-18, but fell in the fourth as the Bulldogs sealed a 3-1 victory.
After the loss, it appeared that any off-season rust had been shaken off for the Huskies, as they proceeded to sweep the rest of the tournament. Northeastern came out firing against Bethune-Cookman, securing the victory in a straight-set rout. Walding provided 29 assists, and libero Gabrielle Eyl led the team with 13 digs in the win.
“Eyl had a terrific couple of days,” Nichols said. “She had lots of big digs, and she’s running things very fluidly from the back line.”
Eyl, a sophomore from Boulder, Colorado, played in all 15 sets last weekend and led all Huskies with 5.53 digs per set. Her performance in Saturday’s matches helped propel the team to back-to-back victories, as she dug up 50 balls total against the University of North Florida and Florida Atlantic University.
Northeastern dropped the first set in both of Saturday’s games before rolling through three consecutive sets in each to secure victories. Nichols loved what he saw on the court against tough opponents.
“These are some pretty robust teams that we faced,” Nichols said. “Relative to our youth and injuries, this puts us back on the map.”
Underdown seemed to find her swing and landed double-digit kills against both schools. Nichols said that bringing Underdown and the other four freshmen – Shania White, Nicole Magbanua, Natalie Shollin and Clare Lund – onto the lineup will make a big difference in terms of game plan going forward.
“With more depth, I can use more of my coaching experience,” Nichols, who has been with the Huskies since 2000, said. “I’d rather play chess than checkers.”
Northeastern will have another chance for a weekend checkmate as the women travel to California for the Long Beach State/UC Irvine Mizuno Invitational on Friday.
Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics