By Tim Foley, news staff
The Northeastern women’s volleyball team fell to James Madison University (JMU) on Thursday, and then went five sets in back-to-back matches, pulling off a thrilling come-from-behind win against the College of William & Mary Saturday, but coming up short against Hofstra University on Wednesday.
The Huskies (18-7, 8-3 CAA) spent the previous two weekends at home, and came out on a six-game winning streak. But the challenge of heading back on the road was apparent early on in the match against JMU.
Northeastern completed a 3-1 victory over the Dukes (14-10, 6-5 CAA) when they faced them earlier in the month, but this time the offense was struggling to click.
“Part of it was a general malaise,” Ken Nichols, head coach of Northeastern, said. “It wasn’t complacency. Our team is constantly hungry and always looking to compete. It was that we were a little too conservative early in the match. And we just couldn’t shake it.”
JMU took the first set 25-18. A big part of their success against Northeastern on Thursday was due to the performance of senior right side Janey Goodman. She created a lot of difficulties on the front line, racking up 25 kills in the match.
Nichols said that despite Goodman’s powerful play, he felt that Northeastern’s inability to get anything started with its own attack affected the team more.
“If you look at the stats and the video, it wasn’t an altogether different effort from [JMU],” Nichols said. “We just didn’t go out and take the match from them.”
The Huskies battled to win in the third set, 26-24, after consecutive kills from senior setter Jamie Bredahl and senior middle blocker Caterina Rosander. But the fourth set belonged to James Madison. Goodman had six kills in the set, and the Dukes won 25-17 to take the match.
“Playing on the road was definitely part of it,” Nichols said. “But the court is square and the ball is round and the nets are the same height. I keep telling the team, ‘You have to just think about the game when you’re on the road.’”
The Huskies took on the College of William & Mary on Saturday and immediately fell behind. The Tribe (8-16, 2-9 CAA) took the first two sets by the same margin, 25-22. Down two sets on the road, the Northeastern women had their work cut out for them.
“During the 10-minute break we had an emotional conversation about, ‘What do we stand for?’ and, ‘What the heck are we doing?’” Nichols said. “I asked them, ‘How are we going to respond?’”
Nichols specifically pulled aside captains Bredahl and Ashlee Asada after speaking to the team as a whole.
“I said, ‘We can win or lose today by how we handle this situation,’” Nichols said. “’You’ve got to believe that we can win this match.’”
The words clearly made an impact. The Huskies battled to stay in the set and pulled ahead late to win 21-25. Then in the fourth, Bredahl served 12 times in a row, landing two of her three aces in the process.
With a 16-2 lead, Northeastern possessed all the momentum, eventually taking the fourth frame, 25-14.
“After the third set, you could see a difference in how we started attacking,” Nichols said. “Jamie’s run from the service line allowed us to reassert ourselves.”
William & Mary did not give up though. The Huskies had to come back from a 7-2 deficit in the fifth frame. They were able to tie the score at 12. Then, with a 16-15 lead, Bredahl ended the match with a kill. The comeback was complete.
“[Bredahl] is always trying to find a way to lead,” Nichols said. “She finds ways to get the people around her to play better. You could have the worst match of your career, but if you can get everyone around you to perform – that’s how you win the big matches.”
Saturday’s match was far from the worst of Bredahl’s career – she set a new career-high with 20 kills. Rosander was also stellar, hitting .652 with 15 kills and seven blocks on an errorless night hitting-wise.
Wednesday’s match against Hofstra was hard fought. The Pride (17-7, 7-4 CAA) won the first set 25-22, but the teams battled back-and–forth to send it to a decisive fifth set.
The Huskies looked dominant in the fourth, winning 25-16, but could not ride that momentum into the final frame. Hofstra built a 12-3 lead and Northeastern was unable to come back.
“The league season starts to get very intimate,” Nichols said. “Everybody knows each other’s middle name in conference by this point.”
The Huskies will return home to take on the College of Charleston Friday at 7 p.m.
Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics