NACOGDOCHES, Texas - The Northern Illinois volleyball team fell 3-1 to Texas A&M on Saturday morning at Shelton Gym during Stephen F. Austin's Ladyjack Invitational. The Aggies (9-0) used a .310-.224 hitting advantage to end the Huskies' (8-3) six-match winning streak during their eight-game, 12-day road trip.
Both teams entered the match after receiving votes in this week's AVCA Top 25 Poll. NIU received six and Texas A&M received four, but it was the Aggies who proved to be the better team on this occasion as they held a 55-47 kills edge and 65-51 digs edge in giving the Huskies their first loss since August 27th. All three of NIU's losses this season have come against AVCA Top 25-caliber teams. NIU had previously fallen to No. 14 Northern Iowa and No. 18 Iowa State.
"This morning's match came down to two things: serving and passing," said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. "They did a good job of serving the ball against us and putting pressure on us. In the first set, they did a nice job of serving and receiving. In the second set, we did a better job. But throughout the rest of the match they did a nice job of serving and passing.
"We learned a lot in this match against A&M. We continue our quest to be one of the top teams in the country. In order to do that, we have to be a little more consistent."
Texas A&M came out strong in the first set, outhitting NIU .393-.212. The Aggies opened a 9-5 lead to force an NIU timeout. The Huskies responded by scoring five straight points, including two kills from Allison McGlaughlin, to take a 10-9 lead after an Aggie error. However, Texas A&M would reclaim the lead, going up 18-15 after scoring three straight to force another Huskie timeout. This time, though, the break didn't help NIU regroup as the Aggies continued to score for a 25-19 win, ending the Huskies' streak of 12 consecutive set wins that dated back to a 3-1 victory against Marquette on September 3rd.
NIU rebounded in a large way in the second set, putting together its best set of the season thus far with a 25-11 win. The Huskies outhit the Aggies .452-.033 en route to knotting the match, 1-1. NIU opened a 10-4 lead to force an Aggie timeout. Texas A&M scored two straight points but NIU kept rolling as the Huskies grabbed a 19-9 lead following an Aggie error. After another Texas A&M timeout, the Huskies ended the set with a 6-2 run with help from five Aggie errors.
The Huskies began the third set with a 9-4 lead following three aces from Lauren Wicinski. But Texas A&M rallied to take a 13-11 lead after an ace, causing NIU to take a timeout. NIU would tie the score at 15 and 16, but three consecutive Aggie points forced another Huskie timeout. From there, Texas A&M captured a 2-1 lead in the match by ending the set with a 6-4 run. A .357-.062 hitting advantage played a key role in the Aggies claiming a 2-1 lead in the match.
In the fourth set, Texas A&M held an early 7-4 lead and would later grab a 14-10 lead to force an NIU timeout. The Aggies extended the lead to 18-12 after consecutive kills to cause the Huskies to call another timeout, but NIU would only score three more points as Texas A&M closed out the match 25-15 with a .415-.184 hitting advantage in the set.
Wicinski led the Huskies with 22 kills and hit a respectable .368. She also added three aces. McGlaughlin reached double figures as well with 13 kills. She chipped in 13 digs, too, for her fourth double-double of the season. Kristin Hoffman ran the offense with 39 assists, adding a pair of kills and aces to go with eight digs. Amber Walker notched 12 digs to give her eight straight matches in double figures.
The Huskies wrap up the Ladyjack Invitational today at 4:00 p.m. CT against host Stephen F. Austin.