DeKALB, Ill. - Returning home for the first time since August 27th, the Northern Illinois volleyball team rallied behind the support of its home crowd to sweep Illinois-Chicago 3-0 on Friday night at Victor E. Court. The win gave the Huskies (10-3) their seventh 3-0 win of the season as they held edges in hitting (.371-.103), kills (43-33), aces (6-3), digs (35-32) and blocks (8-0) to take down the Flames (6-5) for the seventh time in the last eight meetings between the two teams.
"Wow, it's great to be home after a long road trip," said NIU head coach Ray Gooden of his team's effort after a 7-1 road trip that featured eight matches in 12 days. "I think our team showed it with the way they started off really strong and on fire against a solid team in UIC, who continues to improve. It was nice for us to have a nice tempo."
In the first two sets, the Huskies were firing on all cylinders as they held a .667-.286 hitting advantage in Set One and a .458--.097 advantage in Set Two. Four aces from Lauren Wicinski helped NIU grab a 20-10 lead to open the match with a 25-14 win. Sarah Angelos also turned in a perfect opening stanza, going five-for-five on swings as NIU had just one hitting error.
The Huskies grabbed an 18-9 edge in the second set with help from a 5-1 blocking discrepancy. In the 26-14 win, Angelos was nearly perfect again as she went four-for-five on attacks. The 26th point in the set came due to an officiating error, but scoring an extra point was no problem for the Huskies.
UIC closed the gap in the second set as both teams struggled -- NIU hit .182 while UIC hit .132. The Flames jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead and hung tough. With the Huskies up 24-22 looking to close out the match, a pair of NIU errors knotted the score. However, Allison McGlaughlin's fifth kill of the match gave the Huskies another chance at match-point. This time, they came through as Mary Kurisch served up an ace to seal the victory and give NIU an unblemished 3-0 record against Horizon League opponents this season.
Wicinski led the way for NIU with 18 kills and hit a stellar .516, adding five aces to boot. Angelos also reached double figures with 10 kills as she hit a solid .438. Kristin Hoffman paced the offense with 39 assists, while Kurisch fronted the defense with a season-high six blocks.
"Mary did a good job of blocking and Sarah did a good job of attacking," said Gooden. "Lauren's serving was the best I think I've seen since she's been here. Allison's defense was strong and Kristin set a good offense. Our team, in total, did a really nice job tonight. Even those who came in later on; Meghan Romo did a nice job and Sue Hayes came in and got a really big dig on the line.
"It's nice for our group to get experience and to continue to expand our number of players that are contributing as we get closer to conference. We have one more match against South Florida on Sunday and we are excited to play."
The Huskies resume their four-match home stand with a matchup against South Florida on Sunday, Sept. 18, at 1 p.m. CT.