March 14, 2006
DeKalb, IL - Northern Illinois University volleyball dropped the championship game of the 2005 NIU Comfort Inn and Suites Invitational to the University of Illinois in three games, but the defeat didn't dampen an exciting three-win weekend for the Huskies.
In addition to wins over Austin Peay State and Wisconsin-Green Bay on
Friday, the Huskies opened Saturday's action with a four-game win over
Indiana State to set up the showdown with the in-state rival Illini.
NIU junior Kate McCullagh (24 kills) and U of I senior Rachel
VanMeeter (23 kills) certainly lived up to their preseason billings,
combining for 47 kills in the exciting three-game affair, with
McCullagh earning a spot on the All-Tournament team, while VanMeeter
was named MVP. In recording the game-high 24 kills, McCullagh, a
Woodstock, IL, native hit .378, while VanMetter hit .419.
Huskie junior Gina Guide joined McCullagh and VanMeeter on the
All-Tournament squad, while Beth Vrdsky (Illinois), Jackie Rosen
(UWGB), and Ashley Genslak (APSU) rounded out the honorees.
Illinois jumped to an early 14-8 lead in game 1, behind the attacking
power of VanMeeter who had eight kills in the opening stanza. Despite
the early deficit, the Huskies rallied back behind the jump serve of
McCullagh, who rattled off nine consecutive points with two aces mixed
in to make the score 19-17. Illinois then scored six of the next
seven points to take a 23-20 lead, before closing out the Huskies
30-26. Overall, the Illini hit .500 for the game.
Northern Illinois started slow in game two, failing to take the lead
beyond 4-3. NIU fell behind 9-5, but came within one (9-8) before
Illinois regained control. The Illini saw its lead grow to as much as
seven at one point, before the Huskies rallied to bring the game to
17-19. The strong play of Rasa Virsilaite helped Illinois seize
control and close out the match 30-24.
Once again, Illinois came out hot in game three and controlled the
Huskies until back-to-back points were served up by senior Marie
Zidek. With the teams knotted at 20-20, Illinois opened up a 22-20
lead and extended that advantage to 28-24 before closing out their
championship run with a 30-26 victory.
Northern Illinois opened the afternoon by defeating Indiana State 3-1.
McCullagh led the Huskie effort recording 33 kills for the second
time this season, matching her career high. Jenny Dziubla chipped in
with 50 assists.
The Huskies looked strong in the opening game, grabbing an early 2-0
lead and never surrendering it to the Sycamores. NIU led by as many
as six points twice, before closing out Indiana State 30-23.
The Sycamores came out inspired in the second game, grabbing a 7-1
lead en route to a 20-11 lead. The Huskies fought back, pulling even
at 25 with a McCullagh kill off a Jenny Dziubla assist, but Indiana
State remained in control before eventually claiming a 30-28 triumph.
The Huskies and Sycamores traded points in the third game before the
Huskies broke a 25-25 tie to win 30-27. Dziubla and Megan Sprangers
helped the Huskies towards the victory with strong serving that
allowed the hosts to rally at key points in the game.
The strong serving of Laura Baetzel proved critical as the Huskies
took the game 30-26 and the match in four games (3-1). Baetzel had
two aces and served for six consecutive points, while McCullagh added
even more offensive firepower with 13 kills.
The Huskies are back in action Tuesday September 6, when they take on
Western Illinois in Macomb, IL. Game time in Macomb is 7 p.m.
Contact Daniel Solow