TOLEDO, Ohio - Behind a phenomenal performance by reigning Mid-American Conference Player of the Year Lauren Wicinski, the Northern Illinois volleyball team topped Toledo 3-1 at Savage Arena Saturday evening. Wicinski totaled a career-best 39 kills and hit .484 to lead the Huskies (13-5, 2-2 MAC) to an important split in their first MAC road weekend.
The reigning MAC Player of the Year, Wicinski's kill total was one shy of tying the all-time NIU record held by Mandy Swick, who had 40 in a 1999 four-set match. Wicinski came six kills short of the conference record and totaled the most kills in the MAC since 2003. Her total was eight away from the NCAA record established in 1997. Add in her 25 kills from last night's tough five-set loss at Ball State and Wicinski is now 14 kills away from reaching the 1,000-kill plateau, as a sophomore.
The 2010 AVCA All-American Honorable Mention didn't just accumulate a high volume of kills versus the Rockets (6-10, 1-3 MAC), she also turned in 10 digs and three aces for her third straight double-double and 10th of the season.
"Lauren was super-woman tonight, going for 39 [kills] in four sets," said NIU head coach Ray Gooden.
Overall, the Huskies held sizeable edges in kills (69-46), hitting percentage (.340-.262), aces (8-5) and digs (63-49) to win their 10th contest over Toledo in the last 12 meetings between the two teams.
"Simply put, it's great to get a win in the [MAC] West [Division] and it's great to get a win in the West on the road," said Gooden. "We've had years of troubles here in Toledo. We've always had big barn-burners here. For us to pull this out tonight was a great accomplishment, especially after a tough loss the night before at Ball State."
After being down early in the first set, NIU broke a 6-6 tie with a 5-1 run to take control. Several plays later, back-to-back kills by Allison McGlaughlin put the Huskies up 18-11. Toledo would cut the lead to five, 20-15, but NIU ran off five straight points, including overpass putaways by Mary Kurisch and Lauren Wicinski, to win 25-15. The Huskies used a healthy 19-9 kills edge and .455-.161 hitting advantage to grab control of the match.
In the second set, NIU continued its momentum by opening an 8-5 lead. The Rockets would tie the game at 9-9, but a UT error and Wicinski kill would keep NIU on top. Toledo continued to keep pace with the Huskies until a Sarah Angelos kill, Rocket error and Sue Hayes ace gave NIU a 19-15 cushion. Then the Huskies served their way to a 25-19 win with help from an Amber Walker ace and a pair of Kristin Hoffman aces. In taking a commanding 2-0 lead in the match, NIU racked up second set advantages in kills (14-8) and hitting percentage (.286-.238).
Tied 8-8 in the third set, the Rockets used a 4-0 run to cut off NIU's run. A few plays later, consecutive Rocket kills gave UT a 15-10 lead and forced an NIU timeout. However, Toledo extended its lead to 22-16 after a Huskie serving error. NIU ran off three straight points to cut the deficit in half but the Rockets were too strong in the set as they went on to win 25-20. NIU outkilled the Rockets 16-14 but Toledo was more efficient (.324-.217) and took advantage of six Huskie attack errors.
The Huskies opened a quick 6-2 lead in the fourth stanza after MacKenzie Roddy knocked down an overpass. But UT came back to tie the score at 11. Several sequences later, a combo block by Kurisch and Hoffman gave NIU a 20-16 lead and the run pushed the Huskies to a 25-21 win.
In helping NCAA kills leader Wicinski eclipse her previous career-high kill total by 10, Hoffman, the NCAA assists leader, tallied a season-high 58 helpers. Hoffman also used the Huskie middle blockers to NIU's advantage as well. Angelos had 10 kills and hit .400, while Kurisch had nine and hit .421.
"I thought Mary did a really good job attacking and so did Sarah," Gooden said. "It's nice to be 2-2 going into a real tough week next week."
Defensively, Walker put up 22 digs for her fourth match with 20 or more digs.
NIU returns to action next week with a pair of MAC home matches. The Huskies will host Western Michigan on Thursday, Oct. 6, at 7:00 p.m. CT and Miami (Ohio) on Saturday, Oct. 8, at 7:00 p.m.