DeKALB, Ill. - For the third time in as many matches, the Northern Illinois volleyball team was victorious as the Huskies (11-3) blanked South Florida 3-0 on Sunday afternoon at Victor E. Court. With the win over the Bulls (4-8), the Huskies improved to 3-0 against Big East teams this season.
"I was really happy with our day today," said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. "It is unique to play a Sunday match, but as our team knows, if you play on a Sunday afternoon late in November you're playing in a championship match. It's nice for our team to have this match today against another Big East team. It was nice for our group to finish undefeated against the Big East so far."
Since NIU's tough loss last weekend to Texas A&M, the Huskies have run off three straight wins. The latest came thanks to a 7-1 blocking advantage, which is tied for the highest blocking discrepancy that NIU has had over an opponent all year. Sarah Angelos and Lauren Wicinski fronted the blocking attack with three apiece.
The Huskies also used edges in kills (44-33), attack percentage (.264-.157) and aces (5-1) to improve to 8-1 in three-set contests.
Three players reached double figures in kills for NIU: Angelos, Wicinski and Allison McGlaughlin. Wicinski led the team with 12, and added a pair of aces. Angelos tied a season high with 11 as she hit a team-best .562. McGlaughlin had 11 as well and tallied a season-high .429 attack percentage. She also notched two aces. Running the offense, Kristin Hoffman dished out 34 assists.
Trailing 3-0 in the first set, the Huskies overcame the slow start to knot the score at 10 after a McGlaughlin kill. Angelos and Hoffman followed with a combo block and Angelos added a kill to spark a 10-4 run that helped NIU take a 1-0 lead in the match after a 25-19 win.
With McGlaughlin serving tough, the Huskies opened the second set with an 11-0 lead. During the spurt, McGlaughlin served up two aces and Angelos had three kills. With the Bulls reeling, NIU was able to ride the run to a 25-17 win to take a commanding 2-0 lead into the break.
In the final stanza, the Huskies broke a 9-9 tie with a 7-1 run that featured four Wicinski kills. USF called a timeout to try to slow NIU but it was to no avail as the Huskies kept the comfortable cushion for the remainder of the set, closing out the match with a 25-20 win.
"We had a nice team effort today," Gooden said. "Both our pins played well and the middles played well. We did a nice job to end our non-conference portion of the schedule at 11-3. Now, we have the grind, which is conference play. Starting next week, we will have a dog fight every match. It was nice to end our non-conference with a strong win."
Next up for NIU is its Mid-American Conference season opening weekend to close out a four-match home stand. The Huskies host Central Michigan on Friday, Sept. 23, at 7:00 p.m. CT and Eastern Michigan on Saturday, Sept. 24, at 7:00 p.m.