Oct. 14, 2011
Final Box: NIU 3, UA 1
AKRON, Ohio - Needing five sets to win for the first time all season, the Northern Illinois volleyball team took down Akron 3-2 Friday night at Rhodes Arena in a cross-divisional Mid-American Conference matchup. In winning their fourth straight match, the Huskies (16-5, 5-2 MAC) improved to 7-1 in road contests.
The last time NIU was pushed to five sets was at Ball State on Sept. 30, when the Cardinals overcame a 2-1 deficit to top the Huskies for NIU's lone road loss of the season. Learning their lesson, the Huskies did not let a 2-1 lead against Akron (4-16, 1-6 MAC) go for naught.
"The biggest thing is between those Ball State and tonight was that we did the things we needed to do at the end to win," said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. "We did good things to have the opportunity to win the match tonight and took advantage."
NIU won the first set 25-23 and fell in the second set 25-15 before erupting for a 25-12 win in the third set as the Huskies outhit the Zips .680 to .111 in the stanza. Looking to close out the match in four sets, NIU held an 18-15 lead and would later increase it to 22-17 following kills from three-time defending MAC West Offensive Player of the Week Lauren Wicinski (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) and Mary Kurisch (La Crosse, Wis./West Salem).
However, Akron would fight off three match point attempts by NIU and tie the set at 24. On the next play, the Zips blocked Wicinski to take the lead. After the teams exchanged points, Allison McGlaughlin (Morton, Ill./Morton) and Kristin Hoffman (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) gave NIU a 27-26 lead with consecutive kills. But the Zips answered with a kill, and an NIU attack error put Akron ahead again 28-27. Then the Zips blocked McGlaughlin to stay alive and force a fifth, match-deciding set with a 29-27 win.
"We lost our focus and they put a lot of pressure on us with their serve in the fourth set," Gooden said. "It took us out of our system a bit. I give them a lot of credit for fighting hard."
An early kill and ace by Hoffman helped the Huskies jump out to a 5-1 lead in the fifth set. A few plays later, a pair of McGlaughlin kills sandwiched a Sarah Angelos (Waukegan, Ill./Waukegan) kill to put NIU ahead 10-4. Akron fought back within three points five times but could get no closer as the Huskies finished the match with a 15-12 win.
"We did a good job of turning points, especially early in that fifth set," Gooden said. "The story of the night was if we played solid defense we'd capitalize on the opportunities. We did that early in the fifth set."
As a team, NIU posted edges over Akron in kills (80-59), hitting percentage .301, aces (6-4), and digs (62-55). The victory gave the Huskies their eighth straight over Akron.
Wicinski, the nation's kills leader, paced NIU to a season-high 80 team kills with 25 herself, and added a team-high 13 digs for her 11th double-double. Kurisch turned in a season-high 17 kills, hit .471, and served up three aces. McGlaughlin totaled 16 kills and 10 digs for her sixth double-double, moving up two spots into ninth on the NIU all-time kills list. Angelos tied a career high with 15 kills and hit a stellar .583. Hoffman, the nation's assists leader, ran the offense with a season-high 64 assists and added four kills to boot.
"From an attacking standpoint, Mary and Sarah did a really nice job," Gooden said. "They meshed with Kristin really well tonight."
Defensively, Amber Walker (Juneau, Alaska/Western Oregon) led the back row with 11 digs.
The Huskies wrap up their road weekend against Buffalo tomorrow at 5 PM CT.