PEORIA, Ill. - For the third time in under 24 hours, the Northern Illinois volleyball team played another match and battled for a comeback 20-25, 25-21, 22-25, 25-22, 15-11 win over Bradley Saturday afternoon at Renaissance Coliseum during the CEFCU Classic. The Huskies (9-7) made up for a 24-17 attack error disadvantage with edges over the Braves (6-5) in kills (74-65), aces (10-3) and digs (84-77) en route to their second comeback win in a week.
Last Saturday, it was another Missouri Valley Conference team that felt the wrath of the gritty Huskies as Missouri State fell victim. Today, it was Bradley, who NIU improved to 13-3 against all-time as the Huskies turned in their third five-set win in four tries this season and second win in as many days.
"We battled another tough team from the Missouri Valley Conference," said NIU Head Coach Ray Gooden. "This was our third match in less than 24 hours and it seems like we've been playing, playing, and playing. I thought our group did a really nice job."
After losing control of the first set midway through, the Huskies had to fight back for the second set. Down 14-10, a kill from senior middle Mary Kurisch (La Crosse, Wis./West Salem) and two straight BU attack errors kick-started a 15-7 run to tie the match at the break.
NIU then had a 17-15 lead slip away in the third set as three Brave kills and an NIU handling error fueled a 10-5 spurt to give Bradley the match lead again.
With their backs against the wall, the Huskies responded in a huge way, going up 13-7 on Bradley after a kill from junior middle Sarah Angelos (Waukegan, Ill./Waukegan). The Braves closed within two late as NIU struggled for a moment to force the fifth, but as she had been doing all match, sophomore outside MacKenzie Roddy (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon) took over. First, she hammered down a kill to end the fourth.
Then, she helped NIU open the fifth set with a 5-1 lead as she started the frame with an emphatic cross-courter, added another kill for the fourth point, and served a laser that hit the net and trickled down for an ace. Roddy then scored four more kills in the set and added another ace to put NIU ahead 14-10.
Following a Bradley kill to erase the Huskies' first try at match-point, Angelos sealed the deal on a slide that sent the Huskies and their bench into an uproar.
Earning an all-tournament selection, Roddy was simply marvelous in her second match of the day, bouncing back from a tough 3-0 loss to Long Beach State a couple hours earlier. She went off for a career-high 30 kills on only 59 swings with just six errors for a .407 attack percentage. She also added a career-high four aces. For the tournament, she totaled 34 kills (4.25/set), 20 digs and four aces.
"MacKenzie Roddy was amazing tonight - 30 kills on 59 swings," Gooden said.
Three other Huskies tallied double-figure kills. Angelos had 14 to go along with a team-high four blocks. Kurisch and senior outside Meghan Romo (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso) each added 13. Freshman setter Alexis Gonzalez (Fresno, Calif./Fresno) notched a season-high 59 assists and tied a season high with 16 digs for her ninth double-double and sixth in a row.
In the back row, senior libero Amber Walker (Juneau, Alaska/Juneau Douglas/Western Oregon) led the team with 23 digs, adding two aces to boot. Junior defensive specialist Justine Schepler (Sycamore, Ill./Sycamore) totaled 16 digs and senior defensive specialist Sue Hayes (Evergreen Park, Ill./Mother McAuley) had 10.
NIU's 74 kills and 10 aces as a team were both season highs and hadn't been done since the 2010 season.
NIU is now near the close of a 14-match road trip over a span of just 23 days. Representing 42 percent of the schedule, the expedition ends next week as the Huskies open up Mid-American Conference play. NIU, who is 7-5 on the excursion thus far, will take on Central Michigan in Mount Pleasant Friday, Sept. 21, at 6 PM CT and Eastern Michigan in Ypsilanti Saturday, Sept. 22, at 6 PM.
"Our team came out and did some really good things, especially battling on the road against a really tough Bradley team," Gooden said. "I'm really proud of our group for getting through this stretch of non-conference play. As we get ready for conference, we end on a high note and get to come back home to take a couple days off and get ready for Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan on the road. On the whole, it was a really good trip for us."