Oct. 5, 2007
Toledo, Ohio - The Northern Illinois volleyball team picked up their second Mid-American Conference win in a row by beating Toledo on the road 31-33, 30-28, 30-22, 30-27.
The Huskies (8-11, 2-3) came out prepared early in the first game, especially freshman Dani D'Ambrose (Addison, Ill. / Addison Trail). With an 8-6 NIU lead, D'Ambrose tallied four consecutive kills to extend the lead to 12-6. Though Up 25-20, the Huskies couldn't withstand a 5-0 rally by the Rockets (3-13, 0-4) that tied the game at 25-25. Both teams exchanged leads several times before Toledo's Shannon Strachan ended the game with back-to-back kills to give the Rockets the 33-31win.
"We just couldn't get points when we needed to in game one," said Huskie head coach Ray Gooden. "Toledo made some good plays and ended up pulling it out."
After being down 10-6 early in game two, the Huskies responded with a 4-1 behind two kills from D'Ambrose to narrow the deficit to 11-10. Junior Irene Johnson (Schaumburg, Ill. / Schaumburg) tied the game at 14-14 with a kill, but the Rockets then went on a 3-0 run to lead 17-14. The Huskies countered with a 4-0 run of their own behind two kills from sophomore Meagan Schoenrock (Sylvania, Ohio / Northview) to take an 18-17 lead. After several lead changes and ties, two kills from Johnson and a Rocket error broke a 27-27 tie and ended game two in NIU's favor, 30-28.
"The plays that we were unable to make in game one we made in game two," said Gooden. "We scored some big points and that was important to go into the break tied, 1-1."
In game three, both teams went back and forth until three consecutive Toledo attack errors gave NIU the 19-16 advantage that the Huskies wouldn't give up. Several more Rocket attack errors and two kills from Johnson helped NIU go on an 11-6 run to end the game, 30-22.
"We took care of the ball, served well and didn't allow them to get back into the game in game three," Gooden said.
Game four was a similar story to game three with many ties and lead changes. With the score tied at 13-13, NIU took a 16-13 lead behind a kill from senior Laura Baetzel (Chicago, Ill. / Burbank Queen of Peace), a service ace by junior Jody Hardwick (Crystal Lake, Ill. / Crystal Lake South / St. Louis) and a kill by sophomore Jessica Schultz (Beaver Dam, Wis. / Beaver Dam / Kishwaukee C.C.). The Huskie lead was short-lived though as four NIU errors helped the Rockets to a 7-1 run to take a 20-17 lead. With a Toledo 22-20 lead, NIU used a couple Rocket errors and kills from Schoenrock and Caputo to take a 24-22 advantage. The Huskies were unable to keep the lead as both teams went back and forth until a Toledo service error and kills from Johnson and Baetzel gave NIU the match, 30-27.
"Both teams went back and forth in game four," said Gooden. "We just took advantage and had the lead at the right time to take that game."
The Huskies were led by a pair of double-doubles from Johnson and Caputo. Johnson registered 14 kills and 12 digs while Caputo notched 47 assists and 13 digs. Schoenrock had a team-high 17 kills and freshman Maddie Hughes (St. Charles, Ill. / North) led the Huskies with 26 digs. Hardwick also helped the NIU defense with 12 digs.
"Irene is continuing to do some pretty good things for us," Gooden said. "She is scoring the ball and playing good defense. She is able to find ways to score when we need it.
"It's great to win back-to-back MAC matches," Gooden continued. "It helps us take another step and it helps with our confidence. It's so tough to win on the road in this wide open MAC West Division right now. Every time we get a chance to win we are doing our best to do that."
Strachan and Margot Joniec led the way for the Rockets with 20 kills each. Toledo also received double-double efforts from Kate Westerfeld and Mallory Ladd. Westerfeld posted 15 kills along with a team-high 28 digs and Ladd totaled 62 assists and 15 digs.
Northern Illinois finishes their weekend looking to add their third straight MAC win as the Huskies face Ball State on Saturday, October 5 at 6 p.m. in Muncie, Ind.