March 1, 2006
DeKalb, IL - The 2005 season has been filled with peaks and valleys for the Northern Illinois University volleyball squad.
Looks like that peak is coming at the right time.
NIU junior middle blocker Kate McCullagh (Woodstock) led three Huskies in double-digit kills with a match-high 21 putaways to push Northern Illinois to their season-high fourth-straight win of the season with the 22-30, 30-16, 30-24, 30-18 triumph over the University of Akron in the first round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament at Victor E. Court on Tuesday night.
Senior middle blocker and reigning Mid-American Conference West Division player of the week, Corinne Walsh (Evergreen Park) continues to impress with 17 kills and a hitting percentage of .414 (17 kills, 5 errors, 29 attacks), while sophomore outside hitter Amy Ward (Sycamore) added 15 kills in the victory. Freshman setter Jenny Dziubla (Elgin/St. Edward) notched a double-double with 53 assists and 13 digs.
As a team, NIU finished with a hitting percentage of .272 (70 kills, 27 errors, 158 attacks), recording their fourth highest hitting percentage of the season in as many matches.
"The girls played great tonight, and they've been playing well of late," NIU head coach Ray Gooden said. "After a little bit of nervous energy in the first game, we settled down and played some pretty good volleyball."
With the victory, NIU moves back to .500 at 16-16 and advances to the MAC Tournament Quarterfinals against top-seeded and #21 ranked Ohio at 6:30 p.m. (CST) in Toledo's SeaGate Centre on Friday night. Akron ends its campaign with a record of 10-20. Earlier this season, the Huskies snapped the Bobcats' 33-game winning streak, but Ohio went on to win the match in four games.
"We have to play our best match against the best team on Friday," Gooden said. "We're going to have to play our best volleyball and we all know it.
"But we also know that we're capable of playing at the level of those guys," Gooden continued. "We just have to do it for a long period of time."
Akron's Mara Capraruolo topped the Zips with 11 kills in the defeat.