March 14, 2006
DeKalb, IL -- Despite a winning start, the Northern Illinois University women's volleyball squad finished on the wrong end of a 3-1 battle with the University of Northern Iowa in Saturday (Aug. 27) night's Huskie home opener.
The visiting UNI Panthers bounced back from a hard-fought 30-28 initial game loss to sweep the next three contests by tallies of 30-24, 30-23 and 30-25. The triumph -- coupled with a 3-0 sweep (30-15, 30-14, 30-27) of the University of Illinois-Chicago earlier in the day at Victor E. Court -- enabled Northern Iowa to leave town with a 2-0 season record. The loss evened Northern Illinois' ledger at 1-1 after the Huskies began the 2005 campaign on Friday night with a come-from-behind 3-2 triumph over UIC's Flames.
"Our teamwork was okay and the energy was better than last night. However, there are too many ups and downs in terms of our experience," NIU head coach Ray Gooden admitted. "We are still trying to figure things out and learn as we go. We need to be able to play at a high level and do that for a long period of time.
"Tonight, Northern Iowa was able to do it longer. Last night, we did that to UIC. While we tried to score points in bunches and limit their runs, it didn't work that way often enough. The biggest thing we need to work on is our ability to score the critical points that create those runs."
In game one, Northern Illinois broke from a 4-4 tie to take an 11-4 advantage. The Panthers fought back into deadlocks at 20 and 22 before the Huskies worked their way into a 28-24 lead thanks in part to a pair of kills by Laura Baetzel (Chicago/Burbank Queen of Peace). That was the only game in which host NIU outhit the visitors, .273 to .122.
"Game one we scored early and played well. Game two, we got stuck. Game three we were flat," Gooden recounted. "And in game four, we had our chances, but couldn't get closer than one or two points."
Northern Iowa finished the contest with a .245 hitting percentage with 66 kills minus 26 errors in 163 attempts. By contrast, the host Huskies
hit .154, deducting 32 errors from 59 kills over 175 attempts.
For the second night in a row, NIU's offense was led by Kate McCullagh (Woodstock) and freshman Beisel, who both recorded 23 kills. Beisel had only three errors in 56 attemts for a stellar .556 hitting efficiency. McCullagh -- who had 33 kills the night before -- put away 23 swats with 12 miscues in 70 attempts.
"Kate's developing as a leader and understands the challenge in front of her," Gooden noted. "Some nights will be better than others. We all need to step up when she draws two or three blockers."
Defensively, NIU had a trio of players post twin figures for digs with Jenny Dziubla (Elgin/St. Edwards) and Gina Guide (Orland Park/Sandburg) notching 12 while McCullagh added 10 more.
Northern Illinois now prepares to host the Comfort Inn and Suites Invitational which has the Huskies facing Austin Peay State University on Friday at 2 p.m. followed by a 7 p.m. contest against the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. In between, the Victor E. Court has a contest between the University of Illinois and Indiana State University.
On Saturday, NIU battles the ISU Sycamores at 2 p.m. before facing perennial powerhouse Illinios in the tourney nightcap at 7 p.m.