Nov. 2, 2006
DeKalb, Ill. - It's not necessarily how Northern Illinois head volleyball coach Ray Gooden wanted to do it, but he will take it.
Despite dropping a 30-26, 30-28, 24-30, 30-26 decision at the hands of Western Michigan at Victor E. Court on Thursday night, the Huskies clinched the Mid-American Conference title by virtue of Eastern Michigan's five-game win over second-place Central Michigan in Ypsilanti, Mich., earlier in the evening.
"It'll feel better tomorrow," Gooden said of his squad clinching the West Division. "But yes, it's a very good feeling to be the MAC West Champions."
Western Michigan sophomore middle blocker Ashley Vogl led four Broncos in double-figures with 18 kills. Bronco outside hitters Kathryn Babcock (15 kills, 18 digs) and Katie Eberling (14 kills, 11 digs) each totaled double-doubles while freshman Michelle Moore added 11 kills and eight blocks (2 solo).
"(Western Michigan) is a good volleyball team," Gooden said. "We had to play a great match to beat them at their place (earlier this year). Tonight we just didn't come together the way we wanted to. There were some positives tonight, but we just weren't able to put it together."
With the victory, Western Michigan improves to 15-12 overall and 5-8 in the MAC, while the Huskies fall to 17-8 on the campaign and 10-3 in conference action.
NIU senior middle blocker Kate McCullagh (Woodstock, Ill.) paced the Huskies' offensive attack with a match-high 23 kills, followed by 16 kills from freshman middle hitter Meagan Schoenrock (Sylvania, Ohio), 11 kills from sophomore middle hitter Irene Johnson (Schaumburg, Ill.) and 10 kills from junior outside hitter Laura Baetzel (Chicago, Ill.).
Huskie sophomore setter Mandi Caputo (Chicago, lll.) garnered a double-double of 61 assists and 10 digs, while senior libero Gina Guide (Orland Park, Ill.) collected a match-high 36 digs.
NIU takes to the MAC road for the final time this season, as they travel to Oxford, Ohio to square off with Miami (OH) on Saturday evening at 6 p.m. (CST).