By Tim Foley, news staff
The 2016 season came to a close for the Northeastern University (NU) women’s volleyball team as the Huskies lost in a hard-fought three sets against the University of Delaware on Friday.
The loss came in the first round of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) tournament, which took place at the University of North Carolina Wilmington over the weekend. The Huskies (20-11, 10-6 CAA) were edged by just two points in two of the three sets.
“3-0 does not do it justice,” NU women’s volleyball head coach Ken Nichols, said. “It was an epic battle.”
The Huskies got off to a great start, building an early lead, but the Blue Hens (16-16, 8-8 CAA) found a way to come back late and knot the set at 24, pushing ahead to win 28-26.
That momentum carried over as Delaware won the second, 25-18, and took a huge lead in the third. Down 17-5 in the last set of the season, Northeastern did not give up.
“The comeback in the third set was one of the most remarkable things I’ve seen as a coach,” Nichols said. “Seeing their will to continue to fight was the most rewarding thing.”
The Huskies reeled off eight consecutive points. They eventually tied the score at 22 and battled back-and-forth with Delaware, pushing the set to extra points. But the Delaware front line proved to be too strong, taking the set 27-25 to complete the sweep.
Despite the disappointment of losing, Nichols put the team’s performance this season in perspective.
“This might be the best year ever for the CAA nationally,” the coach said. “It’s quite remarkable that we were in the mix with the best teams. It is daunting but motivating.”
For four players, the game against Delaware was their last time suiting up as Huskies. Setter Jamie Bredahl, libero Ashlee Asada, middle blocker Caterina Rosander and outside hitter Hannah Fry are all seniors.
“The four of them are Northeastern through and through,” Nichols said. “To say that they saved my career is no overstatement. I lost my sister two years ago and I had a lot of struggles. They were there with me for all of it.”
While it will be hard to say goodbye, for three of the four women, it is not the end of the road at Northeastern. Because of the co-op program, everyone except for Asada, who started playing as a sophomore, will be returning to school in the fall.
Bredahl, who is in Northeastern’s physical therapy program, will be in class for two more years.
“Jamie has already talked to me about wanting to help the new setter train and being an asset for her,” Nichols said. “It definitely lessens the blow. I think that the transition is easier for them because the challenges at NU are harder. It better prepares them.”
Nichols said he is confident about the future for all four women.
“They’re all going to make their own paths in this world with great ease,” the coach said. “They have such charm and charisma.”
As the season comes to a close, the Huskies have a lot to celebrate. The team not only earned a winning record after being ranked eighth in conference in the preseason standings, but also won five CAA post-season awards.
Coach Nichols was named CAA Coach of the Year. He attributed his success to rest of the coaching staff and players.
“I’m not a staunch advocate of ‘coach of the year,’” Nichols said. “I genuinely think it’s ‘team of the year.’”
Junior setter Kristen Walding was named CAA Setter of the Year. Nichols called her a “genius.”
“Kristen is one of these classic NU players who is unassuming and not flashy,” Nichols said. “And she had more than her fair share of challenges, between dealing with different receive patterns, different rotations and different personnel. It speaks to her ability as a setter.”
Bredahl and Rosander were named to the All-CAA Third Team, while freshman middle blocker Shaina White made the All-Rookie Team.
Nichols traditionally has the team get right back into meetings after the last game of the season, but as the Huskies flew home, he reconsidered.
“I said, ‘For a change, you guys can have a couple of days off,’” Nichols said. “After all the emotional and physical pain, they definitely deserve a few days. They have a lot to be proud of.”
Photo courtesy Jim Pierce, Northeastern Athletics