Oct. 13, 2006
Toledo, Ohio - The Northern Illinois volleyball team got it done both offensively and defensively as middle blocker Kate McCullagh (Woodstock, Ill.) and libero Gina Guide (Orland Park, Ill.) provided key senior leadership and helped propel the visiting Huskies to their third-consecutive win with the 35-33, 21-30, 30-25, 30-27 Mid-American Conference victory over Toledo at Savage Hall on Friday evening.
"We played against a real emotional Toledo team that came out firing today," NIU head coach Ray Gooden said. "They served the ball real aggressively and hit us pretty hard. It was good for us to get the win."
McCullagh provided the offensive fireworks for the Huskies, collecting a match-high 30 kills - the third time she has reached the 30-kill plateau this season. Guide, who set the single-match record for digs (41) against Eastern Michigan last week, eclipsed that mark and tied the MAC record for digs in a match with 50.
"Gina did a real good touching the ball on defense and Kate did a good job of putting herself in good spots," Gooden said. "(McCullagh) stayed strong and scored some positive points when we needed them."
Huskie junior outside hitter Laura Baetzel (Chicago, Ill.) was a force offensively as well, garnering a career-high, 18 kills on the evening. Sophomore setter Mandi Caputo (Chicago, Ill.) added 57 assists in the victory.
With the victory, NIU improves to 13-6 and 6-1 in MAC action, extending its lead in the West Division to three matches, as Central Michigan, Ball State and Western Michigan are all tied for second-place with a record of 3-4 in conference play. That win pushes the Huskies to its best conference start since the 1997 campaign, when NIU opened the 1997 season winning seven of their first eight matches.
Toledo (5-15, 2-5 MAC) was led offensively by freshman outside hitter Stephanie Kersting, who led three Rocket players in double-figure kills with 17. Senior outside hitter Kate Bean added a double-double of 13 kills and 12 digs, while teammate Shannon Strachan added 10 kills in the defeat. Rockets' setter Emi Holsclaw collected a double-double of 46 assists and 14 digs.
Guide proved crucial in the Huskies' success on Friday, as she led a Huskie charge defensively that gathered 97 digs on the evening to Toledo's 74. The Orland Park, Ill., native needs 63 more digs on the season for her 2,000th career `up'. As a team, Toledo had 207 attacks, to NIU's 173.
While happy with the win, Gooden knows that there is more work to be done for his squad.
"What's great is that we got a MAC win, a division win, and a win on the road" Gooden said. "Those are the three things that we feel good about at this stage. We're excited about it, we're celebrating it tonight and getting ready for tomorrow (against Ball State)."
NIU looks for its first win in Muncie, Ind., in nine years on Saturday night against Ball State, as the Huskies and Cardinals square off for a 6 p.m. (CST) first serve at John E. Worthen Arena.