Sept. 3, 2010
CHICAGO - After ending the month of August immaculately, the Northern Illinois volleyball team continued its hot start into September by sweeping Kennesaw State, 25-21, 25-16, 25-18, at the UIC Invitational on Friday evening at UIC Pavilion. In their first road match, the Huskies improved to 6-0 on the season, and are one win away from matching 1998's best start in program history, while the Owls dropped to 2-3.
"It was real nice for us to get off with a positive result in our first road match," said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. "I thought once we got into rhythm, especially towards the end, we were able to do some real nice things, both offensively and defensively."
Northern Illinois dominated Kennesaw State in nearly every category in the first all-time meeting between the programs. The Huskies held the match advantage in kills (47-30), hitting percentage (.337-.250), aces (9-3), and digs (37-30). NIU has now out-killed, out-hit, and out-dug every opponent in 2010. The only statistic that the Huskies didn't have an edge on was blocks (5.5-1), but it was more than made up for with 10 overpass kills to KSU's one.
Freshman Lauren Wicinski (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) paced the Huskie attack with 14 kills on 24 swings and a .417 attack percentage, and added three aces. NIU also received very positive efforts from sophomore Mary Kurisch (LaCrosse, Wis./West Salem) (eight kills, .400 hitting percentage), freshman Sarah Angelos (Waukegan, Ill./Waukegan) (seven kills, .429), and sophomore Meghan Romo (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso) (six kills, .417). Junior Kristin Hoffman (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) captained the offense with 33 assists, five digs, and two kills.
"It's nice to continue our focus on being diverse with our offense," Gooden said. "I like the fact that we have multiple people contributing."
On defense, sophomore Sue Hayes (Evergreen Park, Ill./Mother McAuley) totaled 10 digs, while senior Maddie Hughes (St. Charles, Ill./North) notched seven and a career-best four aces.
After opening a first-set 5-2 lead following a combo block from Kurisch and Wicinski, KSU came right back to tie it, 5-5. NIU would continue to control the set, but was unable to distance itself from the Owls, who tied the score three more times. With the score knotted at 12-12, the Huskies went on a 7-3 run to force a Kennesaw State timeout after an Owl attack error. Romo and junior Allison McGlaughlin (Morton, Ill./Morton) had two kills apiece during the spurt. KSU regrouped to tie the score, 20-20, out of the break, but NIU finished strong with another run. Wicinski started it with a blast that found the center of KSU's court and Hughes fired an ace. Out of another Owl timeout, Hughes served up another ace and a bad set gave NIU a 24-20 lead. A KSU point later, Kurisch slammed a ball down to end it.
A furious 7-1 start in the second set caused an early timeout by the Owls after a back row blast by McGlaughlin found the floor. The Huskies continued their rapid pace throughout the set, but needed a quick boost after a block brought KSU within four points, 14-10. After timeout, NIU received a kill by Wicinski off an Owl block and consecutive aces by Hughes to get it going again. KSU took another timeout with the score in favor of NIU, 20-12, but the break did nothing to stop the Huskies. With set point in sight, freshman Kayla Zeno (Lake Elmo, Minn./Stillwater Area) subbed in to serve and racked up an ace to put NIU up 2-0 at the break.
In the final stanza, the Huskies once again opened an early lead, going up 10-5 after a combo block by Kurisch and Romo, inducing a timeout by the Owls. KSU crept within three points after a block and tip made the score 14-11, but NIU regained the momentum after a timeout with a 5-1 run. Three kills came from McGlaughlin, while two were by Wicinski. Following an Owl timeout, the Huskies made it a 7-1 spurt after kills from Kurisch and Wicinski and would go on to end the match with the help of two KSU errors in the last two plays of the match.
The Huskies finish the UIC Invitational tomorrow with two more matches. NIU will take on Memphis (2-1) at 12 p.m. CT and Illinois Chicago (1-1) at 7 p.m.