DeKALB, Ill. – Behind a boisterous home crowd, the Northern Illinois volleyball team completed a 2-0 weekend Saturday at Victor E. Court with a 3-1 win over the Central Michigan Chippewas.
NIU (11-7, 3-1 MAC) shut down CMU’s (7-9, 1-3 MAC) offense with a season-high 18 blocks and limited the Chippewas to a paltry .119 attack percentage in the match.
“(It was) another really good battle,” said NIU Head Coach Ray Gooden. “Central Michigan came in a fought us really hard. We did a good job with our serving and passing for awhile. We did a really good job with our blocking all night and we had moments of a strong net presence. All in all, it was another battle that went on the positive side and it was great to finish our homestand in a positive way.”
NIU came out firing at the onset of the first set, as two 4-0 runs helped stake the Huskies an 8-1 lead against the Chippewas. CMU, though, quickly retaliated with a 6-0 run that got them within 8-7. After a service error ended the CMU threat, the Huskies built up a 14-9 advantage following kills from Mackenzie Roddy and Mary Grace Kelly, along with a Jenna Radtke-Lauren Zielinski combo block and a couple Chippewa errors. CMU once again threatened the NIU lead with a 5-1 run, but the Huskies closed the door with a 7-2 run to coast to a 25-21 opening set win.
The two sides traded points early in the second set until the Huskies edged ahead, 7-5, with a Roddy kill. On the play, though, CMU setter Danielle Thompson suffered an injury on the play, giving way to inexperienced sophomore Haley Barker. That change gave the Chippewas quite the boost offensively, as they changed a 9-7 Huskie lead to a 15-11 CMU advantage. The visitors held that edge up to set point at 24-16. Yet, the Huskies fought back with six consecutive points, which included a solo block from Sarah Angelos after Emily Paschke and Angelos teamed up for a stuff, to get within two points. The improbable rally, though, was shot down when the Chippewas got a kill to clinch the second set, 25-22, to make it one set apiece at halftime.
The Huskies put an end to the Chippewa momentum swing early in the third by racing out to a 10-3 lead courtesy of two 4-0 runs and several Chippewa errors. CMU responded with a 5-1 rally to get within 11-8. Yet, NIU stretched their lead to 17-10 and denied any Chippewa rallies en route to a 25-20 third set win. As a team, the Huskies held CMU to a .026 attack percentage in the third set by forcing 11 errors.
The Chippewas got on the Huskies from the get-go in the fourth set, staking out a quick 6-2 lead to force an NIU timeout. The Huskies moved to within two at 8-6, but a 4-1 run pushed the Chippewas out to a 12-7 lead. Though the visitors looked primed to force a fifth set, NIU forged a comeback to tie the match at 19-19 and eventually take a 20-19 lead. After CMU slid back ahead, 21-20, the two sides exchanged points until a Radtke and Paschke block gave the Huskies set and match point at 24-23, along with the serve. Things didn’t end quietly, though, as both teams combined for seven set points on their way to a 30-30 tie. After Alexis Gonzalez’s kill forced the overtime deadlock, NIU threw the dagger with a Radtke solo block and kill back-to-back to claim the set and the match.
Kelly led NIU with 11 kills on the night, while Angelos was the only other Huskie with double-digit spikes with 10. Meanwhile, Radtke finished the match with 10 blocks, while Paschke totaled nine and Angelos six. Libero Justine Schepler set a new career record for the second consecutive match with 28 digs.
The Huskies begin a four-match road trip next weekend at Toledo, as they face the Rockets Friday at 6 p.m. inside Savage Arena.