LAST TIME OUT: NKU split its matches on the first weekend of Horizon League competition, storming back after being down two sets to Wright State to win it in five before falling to League newcomer IUPUI in four on the road. Haley Libs and the Norse defense were the highlights of the win over WSU, as Libs tied her career high of 26 kills (which is also the Division I-era single-match NKU record) to go along with 17 digs. Three other Norse recorded 15+ digs, led by Ashton Terrill with 19 while McKenzie Eskridge added 17 and Laura Crawford had 16 digs. The team was unable to carry momentum into the next match against the Jaguars, as no Norse was able to surpass the double-digit kill threshold. Crawford and Childers paced the offense in the setback with nine kills apiece, a new career best for Childers, while Crawford and Shelby Olsen led the team in the back row with 16 digs each.
DOUBLE THE DOUBLE-DOUBLE TROUBLE: Both Haley Libs and Laura Crawford are averaging double-doubles on the season, with 13.45 kills/13.64 digs and 12.82 kills/14.00 digs per match, respectively. The duo recorded back-to-back double-doubles in the first two matches of the season against Robert Morris and Duquesne, and again versus Seattle and Sacramento State.
The Robert Morris match marked a feat that had not been accomplished in nearly a decade. Two players with a double-double in a sweep is a feat in and of itself, but the rarity is even more so when the two players are both attackers. The last time a pair of Norse attackers registered double-doubles in a sweep was on Oct. 21, 2007 against Mount St. Joseph, when current head coach Liz Hart (née Holmes) had 16 kills and 10 digs in the three-set victory while Tristen Dye added 15 kills and 14 digs. The last time two attackers had double-doubles in a victory of any kind was on Nov. 14, 2015 against Cleveland State, courtesy of Libs (17 kills, 13 digs) and Jayden Julian (10 kills, 17 digs).
AND SETTER MAKES THREE: Shelby Olsen has also entered the fold as a double-double machine, averaging 39.55 assists and 11.45 digs per match. Olsen recorded the first double-double of her career against Seattle and went off for three-straight double-doubles throughout the entirety of the NKU Invitational, culminating in career bests of 53 assists and 17 digs (which was bested by 20 digs against Florida A&M on Sept. 16) against Bowling Green.
BACK LINE OF DEFENSE: Northern Kentucky’s defense has become a mainstay of its success, and the Norse are keeping up with the trend of being one of the top defensive teams in the Horizon League. NKU is not only leading the Horizon League in digs per set (18.50) and opponent hitting percentage (.187), but the team ranks fourth nationally in the former. Ashton Terrill and Laura Crawford are doing their fair share of keeping opponents’ offense at bay from the back row, as both rank among the League’s top defenders.
SCOUTING YOUNGSTOWN STATE: The Penguins host their first League matches of the season this year after going 0-2 on the road to UIC and Green Bay last weekend, suffering sweeps against both. YSU started the season out strong with three-straight sweeps and a 3-2 win over Robert Morris, but fell into a five-match losing skid and has not been able to string together more than two wins since.
Youngstown State sits near the bottom of the League in nearly every statistical ranking except for one, with the Penguins pacing the Horizon League and sitting at 58th nationally with 1.53 aces per set. YSU’s most potent weapon from behind the line is senior outside hitter Sam Brown, who averages .45 aces a game, while Sarah Varcolla, Margaux Thompson and Heather Splinter have also proven to be formidable servers. Splinter runs one half of Youngstown’s 6-2 offense, averaging 4.95 assists per set while Libbie Darling averages 4.72. The pair balances the offense well, with four Penguins averaging more than two kills per set, paced by Varcolla in the middle with 2.78 kps to go with 1.02 blocks per set.
NKU has only played Youngstown State since joining the Horizon League and has taken all four matchups against the Penguins. Last season, the Norse swept YSU at home before winning in four on the road, 15-25, 25-15, 25-22, 25-20.
SCOUTING OAKLAND: Oakland is also looking to right the ship after the first weekend of League competition, dropping a pair of four-set matches to Green Bay and Milwaukee. The Golden Grizzlies sit at 5-9 overall, notching wins over Eastern Michigan, Stony Brook, Robert Morris, Southern Illinois and Kent State.
Despite going 0-2 last weekend, middle blocker Krysteena Davis was named the Horizon League Defensive Player of the Week after averaging 2.38 blocks per set, including 11 blocks against Milwaukee for her second match of the season with 11+ blocks. Oakland’s front line continues to be a threat, with the team leading the League and ranking 38th nationally with 2.58 blocks per set. Davis leads the team considerably with 1.54 bps, the most in the League by nearly half a block and 11th in the nation, while Sammy Condon and Jamie Walling both average at least .80 bps. Senior outside Darien Bandel receives nearly a third of the team’s sets and terminates well with a League-leading 4.13 kills per set at a .213 clip.
Oakland holds a 9-1 advantage in the all-time series over the Norse, with the lone win coming last season in a sweep at home on Oct. 1. That win, which saw the Norse dismantle the Golden Grizzlies 25-16, 25-14, 25-18, sparked a seven-match sweep streak that marked the first time since 2008 that NKU had downed seven-consecutive opponents in straight sets and the first time in program history that seven-straight sweeps were recorded against conference opponents.
Assistant Athletic Communications Director
Northern Kentucky University