Oct. 14, 2006
Muncie, Ind. - John E. Worthen Arena and more specifically, the Ball State Cardinals have proved to be a daunting obstacle to overcome for the Northern Illinois volleyball team, as the Huskies had not won in that building in its 14-year history.
Streaks, however, are made to be broken as the Mid-American West Division leading Huskies earned the 27-30, 30-16, 30-24, 30-25 MAC victory over Ball State at Worthen Arena on Saturday night.
"It's a great feeling for our team," NIU head volleyball coach Ray Gooden said. "Not for only our group, but so many groups before us. It was just a great win for the Huskies tonight. Our girls really felt they could do it tonight. They really had a positive mindset going into tonight and it was focused and determined. It felt like it had a lot of meaning tonight."
With the victory, NIU improves to 14-6 overall and 7-1 in MAC action, its best conference start since the 1997 campaign. With Ball State, Western Michigan and Central Michigan each losing on Saturday, the Huskies extended their lead in the West to four matches. Ball State falls to 6-14 on the season and 3-5 in conference play.
"I think it's great for us to be where we are at this point," Gooden said of his squad's four-match lead. "We're excited about the things we're doing right now, but we also know that we're just halfway through the (MAC) season right now."
NIU senior middle blocker Kate McCullagh (Woodstock, Ill.) tallied a double-double with a match-high 19 kills and 14 digs to pace the Huskies, while outside hitters Irene Johnson (Schaumburg, Ill.) and Meagan Schoenrock (Sylvania, Ohio) posted 16 and 11 putaways respectively.
Johnson was particularly dominant, posting a team-season best hitting percentage of .667 (16 kills, 0 errors, 24 attacks). NIU senior libero Gina Guide (Orland Park, Ill.) collected a match-high 39 digs, while sophomore setter Mandi Caputo (Chicago, Ill.) posted a double-double of 53 assists and 15 digs.
"Irene was awesome tonight," Gooden said. "I think it's safe to say that Irene had her best Huskie performance today. It was fun to watch her do what she did. She played great and the girls had a chance to celebrate."
Ball State freshman Julie Breivogel collected a match-high 19 kills, while teammates Kelly Cochran (13 kills, 10 digs) and Brittany May (11 kills) each added double-digit putaways.
NIU is back in action on Friday, as they continue their four-match road trip against Kent State. First serve is slated for 6 p.m. (CST).