Oct. 29, 2010
TOLEDO, Ohio - For only the third time all season, and second time in Mid-American Conference play, the Northern Illinois volleyball team came up on the short end of a match, losing to Toledo in a tough five-set contest (26-24, 26-24, 18-25, 17-25-, 15-17) on Friday night at Savage Arena.
The Rockets (9-13, 4-7 MAC) overcame a 2-0 deficit in the match to rob the Huskies (23-3, 9-2 MAC) of their 10th consecutive win. The first road loss for the Huskies moved them to 2-1 on their current season-long, five-match road trip.
"We were fortunate to be up 2-0 at the break," said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. "We were down in both the first two sets, but we were able to capture some momentum late. At no time tonight did I feel like we had any sort of control of the match. Greg [Smith's] team showed a lot of heart and energy tonight"
The key to the match was Toledo outhitting (.280-.208) and outkilling (77-64) NIU for just the third and fourth times all season, respectively.
"[Toledo] did a good job attacking," Gooden said. "We did a poor job of touching the ball with our blocking."
Northern Illinois was led by the country's freshman kills leader. Outside hitter Lauren Wicinski (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) put together her first 20-20 match with 22 kills and a season-high 20 digs. The conference leader in aces also served up two perfectos. Junior outside hitter Allison McGlaughlin (Morton, Ill./Morton) turned in 12 kills, including the 1,000th of her career. The two-time All-MAC selection is the 16th Huskie to reach the 1,000-kill plateau. The most efficient of the group was freshman Sarah Angelos (Waukegan, Ill./Waukegan), who hit .588 with 11 kills. Junior setter Kristin Hoffman (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) ran the offense with 57 assists and four kills on seven swings.
"Sarah had a really good match tonight and it was nice to see Allison get her 1,000th kill," said Gooden.
In the back row, senior libero Maddie Hughes (St. Charles, Ill./North) had 29 digs. Sophomore defensive specialist Sue Hayes (Evergreen Park, Ill./Mother McAuley) registered a season-high 15 digs.
In a back and forth opening set, two NIU aces proved to be the difference in an otherwise even contest. The first came from Kristin Hoffman and broke a 23-23 tie. After Wicinski missed long on set point, a slide by sophomore outside hitter Meghan Romo (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso) off a UT block set up another opportunity for the Huskies to take the set. Redeeming herself, Wicinski served a rocket off the back left line to put NIU up 1-0 in the match.
After spotting UT five points to start the second stanza and being down by seven points late, the Huskies resiliently bounced back strong. Trailing 21-14, NIU used an 8-0 run to tie the score. The spurt was highlighted by two kills and a block assist by Angelos. Following an exchange of two points apiece, Wicinski rose to the occasion once again by blasting a crosscourt kill over a Rocket block from the left side. UT's attempt to knot the game hit off the antenna to give NIU the set.
The Huskies' attempt at their 14th sweep of the season came up short in the third set, as NIU was outhit .425 to .229. Toledo stayed alive with a 19-13 kills advantage and nearly led the whole way. NIU held a brief 9-7 lead, but the Rockets went on a 13-7 run to regain the lead. With momentum clearly on its side, UT easily captured the set.
The fourth set turned out very similar to the third. UT hit an even .400 with 16 kills, while the Huskies managed to hit just .171 with 12 kills. NIU held an early 3-1 advantage, but it quickly disappeared after the Rockets went on a 17-7 run to leave the Huskies reeling as UT rode the surge to tie the match.
In the match-decider, UT took an 8-6 lead at the turn off an overpass. The Rockets then took a 12-9 lead on another overpass to force the Huskies to call a timeout. Out of the break, NIU rallied for three straight points, all on Rocket errors, and took a 13-12 lead after a combo block by Romo and sophomore middle blocker Mary Kurisch (La Crosse, Wis./West Salem). Toledo ran a slide to tie the game out of a timeout. Following another Huskie timeout, Wicinski delivered a kill off a UT block to end a lengthy rally. With a win in sight, McGlaughlin came up just wide on a crosscourt attempt. A Romo attack into the net flipped the momentum to Toledo, but McGlaughlin responded with a putaway through UT's block. However, NIU could not recapture the momentum completely as the Rockets tallied back-to-back kills to end the competition.
"Though we had a chance to pull the match out in five, I just felt that the team's energy that we've been so accustomed to was not in its best form tonight. A lot of credit goes to Toledo for really taking us out of our comfort zone."
The Huskies finish the weekend tomorrow with a 6 p.m. (CT) contest at Ball State (19-4, 9-2 MAC). The Cardinals won a five-set decision at home over Western Michigan tonight. Ending the Huskies' 20-day reign, the victory created a three-way tie for first place in the MAC West Division between NIU, BSU and Eastern Michigan (22-6, 9-2 MAC).