MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - Spoiling Central Michigan's senior night, the Northern Illinois volleyball team ended the weekend with a 3-1 win at McGuirk Arena Saturday night in a Mid-American Conference West Division contest. With the victory, the Huskies (21-5, 10-2 MAC) upped their season-long winning streak to nine matches and improved to a stellar 10-1 away from Victor E. Court.
"Another night, another great match on the road," said NIU Head Coach Ray Gooden of a match that featured 30 ties and 11 lead changes. "Our team came together in some tough circumstances. We played an emotional Central Michigan team on senior night. We knew it was going to be highly-contested match."
Playing from behind for most of the first set, the Huskies used a Sarah Angelos (Waukegan, Ill./Waukegan) kill and two straight CMU (14-9, 7-5 MAC) errors to tie the game at 19. Out of a Chippewa timeout, a Lauren Wicinski (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) kill gave NIU the lead. A few plays later, CMU knotted the score at 23, only to be overmatched by Wicinski on the next two plays. First, the 2010 MAC Player of the Year scored on a crosscourt shot. Then, she served up an ace down the middle of the court to give the Huskies the first set, 25-23. NIU outhit (.275-.200) and outkilled (16-13) CMU to help take the opening stanza.
The Huskies fell behind early in the second set as well, down 4-0 right off the bat. However, they climbed back with a 7-2 run to grab a 7-6 lead. NIU continued to score and would eventually take a 17-14 lead after Mary Kurisch (La Crosse, Wis./West Salem) hammered down an overpass. But three errors at the tail end of the set gave the Chippewas life and they turned it into a 25-22 win to even the match at the break. CMU took advantage of 10 Huskie errors as NIU managed to hit only .026 in the frame.
Tied 4-4 in the third set, Kurisch put away another overpass to spark a 12-5 run that was punctuated by a combo block from Kurisch and MacKenzie Roddy (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon). With the seven-point cushion, the Huskies continued to score and rode the run to a 25-18 win. The Huskies used .394-.174 hitting and 3-1 blocking advantages to take a 2-1 match lead.
Down 10-6 in the fourth set, the Huskies used a 5-1 run to tie the score at 11. Then the teams went at each other as the score was tied six different times until three straight Chippewa errors broke a 20-20 tie. On the next sequence, Kayla Zeno (Lake Elmo, Minn./Stillwater Area) deposited an overpass into an empty corner of the court to give the Huskies a chance at match-point, 24-20. Amber Walker (Juneau, Alaska/Juneau Douglas/Western Oregon) wasted no time as her serve hit the net and dropped untouched safely on CMU's side for a 25-20 win, giving the Huskies their second win this season over CMU.
"We were able to eventually break away in the fourth set," said Gooden. "The team did a great job tonight of settling ourselves down. Once we did that, our style of volleyball outlasted theirs."
A decisive factor in the match was NIU's 8-4 aces advantage as the tough Huskie serves kept the Chippewas off balance for most of the night. Wicinski, the nation's fourth leading server, led the way with four.
Wicinski, who also leads the nation in points and kills, paced the offense with 18 kills, and added 13 digs for her 13th double-double. Kurisch (12) and Angelos (11) also reached double figures in kills. Kurisch turned in six blocks as well. Running the offense, Kristin Hoffman (Batavia, Ill./Batavia), the NCAA assists leader, totaled 45 assists and 13 digs for her seventh double-double and fourth straight.
In the back row, Walker led the team in digs with 18. Justine Schepler (Sycamore, Ill./Sycamore) tallied double figures as well with 13.
The Huskies return to the court next weekend with their final pair of home matches against the MAC West's Toledo and Ball State. NIU will take on the UT Rockets Friday, Nov. 4, at 7 PM CT and the BSU Cardinals Saturday, Nov. 5, at 7 PM in the NIU Convocation Center's Victor E. Court.