Nov. 4, 2010
KALAMAZOO, Mich. - With both teams coming off road losses to Ball State and Toledo last weekend, Thursday night's Mid-American Conference volleyball match at University Arena was hotly contested as both Northern Illinois and Western Michigan were hungry for a win. The competition proved to be exactly what it was set up to be -- a showdown -- as WMU topped the Huskies in five sets, 16-15, 25-16, 25-19, 23-25, 17-15.
"Both teams were, for lack of a better term, looking for their mojo after a tough weekend on the road," said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. "It was great for us to jump out 7-0 and win the first set. Unfortunately, we weren't able to maintain that for the next two sets. But I'm really glad that the girls worked hard together to pull out the critical fourth set. At times we had a chance to win it. We can't be upset about it; we just have to learn from it."
With the score tied 13-13 in the final set, sophomore middle blocker Mary Kurisch (La Crosse, Wis./West Salem) found an empty court with a crosscourt shot from the right side on a slide to give NIU (23-5, 9-4 MAC) a chance to take the match. However, the Broncos (19-8, 9-4 MAC) answered with a kill off an NIU block. The momentum then turned when freshman outside hitter Lauren Wicinski's (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) attack hit the left pin. Following a Huskie timeout, Wicinski saved NIU with a beautiful crosscourt shot that hit the right side line, but her serve was long on the next play. WMU capitalized on its second attempt for match point with another putaway off a Huskie block to move into a tie for third place in the MAC West Division with NIU.
"We had some good things happen at the right times for us to be in the match, but Western did a really good job of earning the critical points at the end," Gooden said of the second five-set match between the two teams this season in which each team defended its home court. "We are all working really hard to find ways to win matches. Western did a really good job of doing that. It was another classic battle."
The statistics of the match were fairly even across the board with two exceptions: attack and serve miscues. NIU outkilled WMU 76-69 and racked up seven aces, giving up just two. However, the Broncos were more efficient with a .314 attack percentage and 11 errors. Conversely, the Huskies hit .264 with 23 errors. WMU also had only three serve errors on the night, while NIU had 10.
Four Huskies reached double figures in kills as setter Kristin Hoffman (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) handed out a career-high 71 assists. Along the way, Hoffman achieved her 2,500th career assist. Her 2,553 helpers rank eighth all-time at NIU.
Wicinski led the way with 27 kills, giving her an NIU freshman record 505 on the season, which is also good for the fifth best single season total in program history. The nation's rookie ace leader served up five aces as well for her 16th multi-ace match of the year. Additionally, Wicinski picked up 16 digs to tally her 12th double-double.
Junior outside hitter Allison McGlaughlin (Morton, Ill./Morton) also notched a double-double, her ninth, with 17 kills and 14 digs. The most efficient hitter for NIU was Kurisch, who hit .481 with 15 kills to total her sixth match with 10-plus kills. Freshman middle blocker Sarah Angelos (Waukegan, Ill./Waukegan) registered 10 kills and a .318 attack percentage, giving her seven matches with 10 or more kills.
On defense, senior libero Maddie Hughes (St. Charles, Ill./North) dug up a career-high-tying 34 balls. Sophomore defensive specialist Sue Hayes (Evergreen Park, Ill./Mother McAuley) also chipped in double digit digs with 13.
NIU came out scorching by scoring the first seven points of the match, three of which were kills off the right hand of Kurisch. Hitting .439 with an astonishing 21 kills, NIU would never trail in the set and easily took a 1-0 lead as the Huskies held the Broncos down to a .220 hitting percentage and 10 kills. With nine kills and an ace, Wicinski was responsible for a healthy 10 points.
The Broncos returned the favor in the second set by reversing the trend. WMU hit .448 with 15 kills and kept NIU at bay with a .091 attack percentage and nine kills. Holding a slim one-point lead, 9-8, the Broncos rallied for five straight points before Angelos ended the run with on a slide from the right side. The Huskies closed within two, 17-15, after back-to-back aces by Wicinski, the MAC serving leader and nation's sixth best ace getter. But WMU responded with three consecutive points to reclaim momentum and take the set to tie the match heading into the break.
After taking a 6-2 advantage following a kill from Wicinski, the Broncos fired back with an 8-1 spurt to take a 10-7 lead in the third stanza. With momentum in its favor, WMU was able to keep scoring points all the way down the stretch to go up 2-1 in the match. Eight attack errors doomed the Huskies in the set as they hit .152 with 15 kills, compared to WMU's .432 attack percentage and 17 kills with only one error.
The lead changed hands five times in the fourth set, but it was NIU who held it last. Out of a Huskie timeout with the score knotted at 21-21, Angelos took over with consecutive slides over blocks on the right side. As the teams exchanged scores to end the set, fellow rookie Wicinski forced the fifth set with a pair of rockets down the left line. A .413 attack percentage, 20 kills and just one error helped NIU stay alive, while WMU hit .289 with 17 kills and four errors.
On deck for the Huskies is the beginning of a three-match home stand, which will mark the final regular season MAC games of 2010. NIU starts the stretch at Victor E. Court on Saturday against Bowling Green at 7 p.m. (CT).