ATHENS, Ohio - The Northern Illinois volleyball team lost a tightly-contested match in four sets, 25-15, 24-26, 22-25, 15-25, Friday night to Ohio at the Convocation Center. In a cross-divisional Mid-American Conference meeting, the Huskies (15-10, 6-3 MAC) had the Bobcats (13-8, 8-1 MAC) on the ropes early but were unable to finish them off as their three-match winning streak was snapped.
"This was a real tough one tonight," said NIU Head Coach Ray Gooden of the Huskies' first loss to the MAC East Division this season in four matches. "We came out swinging, literally, and played great in the first set. We really put pressure on Ohio at their place, which is a rarity. They are really strong at home. We battled hard the second set - in hindsight, we really needed that second set to put more pressure on them and go up 2-0. So they picked up the momentum by coming back to win it in overtime. They pulled it out with a strong third set and had control in the fourth. It's hard because it's one of those matches we really wanted on the road. We have to learn from it and bounce right back tomorrow at Kent State."
Always a tough place to play, as NIU is now 1-4 at Ohio under Gooden, the Huskies thumped Ohio in the first set. NIU outhit OU .387 to .083 and racked up a 15-10 kills edge. The Huskies jumped out to an 11-7 lead after senior middle blocker Mary Kurisch (La Crosse, Wis./West Salem) hammered down an overpass, and then an OU setting error made it 12-7. Ohio never recovered as NIU opened up a 10-point lead that would stand at the end of the set.
The Huskies continued to play well in the second set, opening a 5-1 lead after an ace from senior defensive specialist Sue Hayes (Evergreen Park, Ill./Mother McAuley). NIU continued to roll with the four-point edge until a 17-13 lead started disappearing quickly. Three straight points from Ohio made it a 17-16 NIU lead, and woke up the Bobcats. The teams then went back and forth, exchanging points until sophomore outside hitter MacKenzie Roddy's (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon) shot went into the net to tie the game at 21. A few plays later, Ohio turned the table after a wide shot from sophomore outside Emily Paschke (Winfield, Ill./West Chicago Community). NIU stayed alive with a wide OU serve, but it wasn't for long, as Ohio used back-to-back kills to tie the match at the break and grab all the momentum.
Ohio then opened the third set with an 11-6 run. NIU gradually chipped away at the deficit and tied it at 21 after junior middle Sarah Angelos (Waukegan, Ill./Waukegan) scored on a quick. A sign that it was just Ohio's night, the next sequence ended with an Ohio point as its shot hit the net and trickled over onto NIU's court for a 22-21 lead. Seizing the luck, the Bobcats scored again on the next play and would end the set on a block to take a 2-1 match lead.
The fourth set was all Bobcats as they started with an 8-2 run and didn't look back.
Despite the dominant first set for NIU, Ohio won the hitting edge .201 to .175 and used a 10-7 blocking advantage to key a win. Both Angelos and Kurisch were outstanding on the night as each had double digit kills and hit .400 or better. Angelos led with 14 putaways and five blocks, while hitting .400. Kurisch tallied 13 kills and hit .455.
In the back row, senior libero Amber Walker (Juneau, Alaska/Juneau Douglas/Western Oregon) paced NIU with 17 digs. Junior Justine Schepler (Sycamore, Ill./Sycamore) was one behind Walker with 16 digs.
NIU finishes the cross-divisional weekend tomorrow against the Kent State Golden Flashes (5-16, 2-7 MAC) in Kent, Ohio at 6 PM CT. Live stats and video of the match will be available through KentStateSports.com.