NIU men’s volleyball

DUNBAR, Wis. – Northland International men’s volleyball season is under way.

The Pioneers began last week by falling to Wisconsin Volleyball Academy (WVA) of Appleton 2-0 (29-27, 25-12, 27-25). WVA is made up of former college players who are now coaching in the high school and club ranks.

“We played hard 90 percent of the time and right 80 percent of the time the ball came to our side,” NIU Coach Dave Herron said. “Against a good team you’re going to be on the wrong side of the win-loss column.”

Jon Conover led the offense with 8 kills; Aaron Debutiaco, 37 assists and 5 aces, and Ethan Miller, 11 digs and the best passer with an 88 percent efficiency.

On Saturday, NIU travelled to Milwaukee to participate in a tri-match at Concordia University along with UW-Fond du Lac.

NIU downed Fond du Lac in the first match 25-14, 25-21.

“We played them in our first conference play date and did not play well,” captain Aaron Debutiaco said. “We wanted to do real well.”

Debutiaco had 21 assists and 2 aces; MinShik Park was the best hitter with 6 kills on 11 swings.

The second match of the day had the Pioneers outlasting the host Falcons 25-16, 26-24.

“We really wanted to establish our position in the conference standings,” co-captain MinShik Park said. “We will have to battle this team for a good seed in the conference tourney at the end of the season.”

Park powered the Pioneers at the net with 7 kills and 2 blocks; Jon Conover and Mikey Hoffman, 6 kills each; Aaron Debutiaco, 21 assists and 4 service aces, and libero Ethan Miller registered a 91 percent passing efficiency and 9 digs.

“If this team will understand that a disciplined defense and an organized offense must be had, then strategic success can be had,” Herron said. “These players are getting better every week. They have the desire to do well, they just need to add diligent practice to that.”

NIU plays at home Saturday, hosting Marquette at 11 a.m. and Concordia around 2:30.