Northern Illinois Volleyball Topples Austin Peay State, UW-Green Bay At Comfort Inn And Suites Invite



March 14, 2006

DeKalb, IL - No one in the city of DeKalb will have a better night's rest than Northern Illinois junior Kate McCullagh. The Woodstock, IL, native recorded a career high 27 kills on a remarkable 80 swings to lift the NIU women's volleyball team to a thrilling 3-2 victory over the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Friday evening at the NIU Comfort Inn and Suites Invitational in DeKalb.

In addition to the 27 kills in the nightcap, McCullagh unloaded 20 kills in a 3-1 (30-21, 30-22, 28-30, 30-20) win over Austin Peay State earlier in the afternoon.

The 6-foot-0 middle blocker opened the win over UWGB with nine kills in a 31-29 game one triumph. Despite trailing 7-2 early on, Northern Illinois stormed back to forge the first of 16 ties with the Phoenix at 11-11 and grabbed its first lead (12-11) following another McCullagh a kill of a Jenny Dziubla assist. The contest remained tight the rest of the way with neither club building a lead larger than two points. After a Leah Steinbauer attack went wide to give NIU a 30-29 lead, senior Corinne Walsh came off the bench to seal the win with her first kill of the season.

Northern Illinois fought back from a 22-13 deficit in game two before falling 32-30. The Huskies actually rallied to serve a 30-29 game point, but three consecutive UWGB tallies evened the contest at 1-1. McCullagh was again sharp, adding eight kills, while the freshman setter Dziubla added 10 assists.

Wisconsin-Green Bay put the Huskies on the brink of elimination with a 30-27 win in game three. Jackie Rosen led hot-hitting UWGB club with six kills, as the Phoenix hit .302 as a team to grab their most lopsided win of the day. That excitement was short-lived however, as a motivated Huskie squad used a 7-1 run and .204 hitting to force a fifth and deciding game. Freshman Irene Johnson highlighted the game four numbers, securing four of her nine total kills in the 30-24 win.



A fast start propelled NIU to its second five-game win of the year. Bolstered by the serving of Megan Sprangers and Dziubla, Northern Illinois raced to a 6-1 lead and hung on for the 15-12 decision. Wisconsin-Green Bay would actually come back to tie the contest on two occasions (10-10 and 12-12), but three service errors and seven attack errors in the deciding game proved to be too much.

The Huskies opened the afternoon with an impressive four-game win over Austin Peay State University. After falling behind 6-2 in game one, Gina Guide served up six consecutive points to bring NIU storming back. Sophomore Laura Baetzel and McCullagh benefited from Guide's serving early on, putting away four of NIU's next six tallies to set the tone. McCullagh led all players in game one with five kills en route to yet another 20-kill afternoon. After regaining a 9-7 advantage, NIU went on another 10-4 run to virtually put the game away. Errors haunted the Lady Gov's, as four miscues led to NIU grabbing a 17-11 lead. Sprangers finished off the game by serving out the final six points, which included a remarkable four aces.

A late surge helped NIU increase its lead to 2-0 in game two. After the two clubs exchanged five lead changes and five ties to knot the game at 19-19, the Huskies outscored APSU 11-3 down the stretch to claim a 30-22 win. Near flawless serving by Marie Zidek, Baetzel and Sprangers set the stage, as McCullagh added five more kills in 10 swings to highlight the impressive victory.

As they did earlier in the afternoon against the University of Illinois, Austin Peay battled back to win game three. Northern Illinois hit just .167 and committed five service errors in a game, which saw the two clubs once again trade four ties. That final tie (26-26) came after a 4-1 Huskie rally, but a pair of kills by APSU's Ashley Genslak helped her squad avoid a sweep.

Northern Illinois sealed its second win of 2005 with a 30-20 victory in game four. An amazing 15-3 run midway through the game helped blow open a tight contest. Once again, it was the offensive prowess of McCullagh and Baetzel that propelled NIU in front by as many as 13 points. As it turned out, 13 was the unlucky number for the Lady Gov's, as 13 APSU attack errors sealed the first of two Northern Illinois wins on the day.

Action at the 2005 NIU Comfort Inn and Suites Invitational is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. with Indiana State taking on Austin Peay. The first contest for Northern Illinois is scheduled for 2 p.m. vs. Indiana State. The Huskies wrap up competition at 7 p.m. on Saturday with a showcase match against the University of Illinois.

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