Northern Kentucky volleyball hits the road following a successful weekend for a midweek match with Cleveland State. First serve is scheduled for 6 p.m. ET on Wednesday, Oct. 11, and the match will be broadcast on ESPN3 with streaming available on computers, tablets and smart phones through WatchESPN and the ESPN App.
Northern Kentucky (8-7, 4-2 HL) at Cleveland State (10-7, 3-3 HL)
Wednesday, Oct. 11 | 6 p.m. ET
Cleveland – Woodling Gymnasium
LAST TIME OUT: NKU moved into a tie for second in the Horizon League standings after going 2-0 at home, keeping fans on the edge of their seats in a five-set victory over UIC before taking down Milwaukee in four sets. The Norse put together one of their most balanced efforts against the Flames, hitting .223 while the front line came up big with 14 blocks in the 25-17, 17-25, 25-15, 21-25, 19-17 battle. Kaelin Gentile led the effort at the net with eight rejections and also added 14 kills, both career bests for the rookie. Haley Libs was also strong on offense and defense, with 14 kills and 14 digs, while Drew Hendricks added 12 kills and five blocks. NKU carried the momentum into Saturday against the Panthers with Libs posting another double-double of 15 kills and 14 digs while Gentile and Hendricks both added 12 kills and Bailey Western hit .450 with 10 terminations. NKU used aggressive serving to tally 11 aces while surrendering just one reception error, led by McKenzie Eskridge’s four aces.
WINNING WAYS: NKU hit a major milestone as a program on Oct. 2, as the Norse posted their 1,000th win in the 42-year team history with a 3-1 win over Youngstown State. The Penguins claimed the opening set, but NKU rattled off the next three sets to remain undefeated in the series history with YSU. Haley Libs led the team with 21 kills and 15 digs, connecting at a .395 clip, while freshman Kaelin Gentile had a career night with 11 kills at a .346 clip. Drew Hendricks had a strong showing with a career-best 13 kills from the left pin.
DOUBLE THE DOUBLE-DOUBLE TROUBLE: Both Haley Libs and Laura Crawford are averaging double-doubles on the season, with 13.20 kills/14.13 digs and 11.80 kills/13.07 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 also entered the fold as a double-double machine, averaging 41.40 assists and 11.80 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 (17.80) and opponent hitting percentage (.196), but the team ranks 12th nationally in the former. Ashton Terrill and Haley Libs 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 CLEVELAND STATE: Last year’s regular-season champions have struggled in 2017, holding a 3-3 record that includes losses to UIC, Wright State and Oakland. Cleveland State returns the 2017 HL Setter of the Year, Gina Kilner, and Co-Freshman of the Year, Sara Skeens, along with All-League middle blocker Alexis Middlebrooks, who have all continued to be top contributors for the Vikings. Kilner averages 10.95 assists per set and is also an offensive threat with 1.40 kills per set. Middlebrooks has led the offense with 3.23 kills per set at a .344 clip, also adding .89 blocks per set, while Skeens is averaging 2.73 kps. The Vikings have used multiple outside hitters in their rotation, with Skeens and Rachel Stover appearing most often while Emily DeGeorge and Katie Miahlik have also seen significant court time. CSU’s back row is led by Shannon Grega, who is second in the Horizon League with 4.68 digs per set but has been leading the League season with 5.22 digs a game.
Despite its defeats, Cleveland State still leads the Horizon League with 14.52 kills per set, but its efficiency has dropped from .252 overall to .233 against League opponents. The Vikings are also a strong serving team with 1.39 aces per set, led by Grega with .52 points from behind the service line per game.
Cleveland State holds a 6-3 record over the Norse in the all-time series, and is 5-1 over NKU since the Norse joined the Horizon League in 2015. The Norse are looking to snap a four-match losing skid to the Vikings after dropping a five-set decision at home before being swept on the road in 2016.
Assistant Athletic Communications Director