DeKALB, Ill. - For the 15th time this season, the Northern Illinois volleyball team came away with a three-set win as NIU took down Toledo 3-0 at Victor E. Court Friday night in a Mid-American Conference West Division contest. Improving to 22-5, 11-2 in MAC play, the Huskies pushed their season-long winning streak to 10 matches and grabbed a share of first place in the division.
The key to victory for the Huskies came from efficient attacking and well-placed serving. As a result, NIU chalked up a .429-.256 hitting advantage and a 9-3 edge in aces en route to its 11th win in the last 13 meetings with the Rockets (9-16, 4-9 MAC).
"Once again, we had a real big battle against a West Division opponent," said NIU head coach Ray Gooden of the team's second win over Toledo this year. "Toledo came in with lots of energy and we were excited to play at home after being on the road last weekend. When we played them last time it was a real tough match. This time we had more control. I thought we attacked and served well against a good Toledo team. We passed well against their tough serves."
Out of the gate, the Rockets matched NIU nearly point for point. When the Huskies broke away with a 16-11 lead after solo block by Lauren Wicinski (Geneva, Ill./Geneva), UT came right back a few moments later to close within two points, 21-19. The deficit remained the same after a Rocket kill made the score 24-22, but NIU was able to take an important 1-0 lead in the match with a 25-22 first set win on a kill from Mary Kurisch (La Crosse, Wis./West Salem).
NIU struggled to separate itself in the early parts of the second set as well, but then found its stride. With a two-point lead, 16-14, a kill by Sarah Angelos (Waukegan, Ill./Waukegan) ignited a 9-3 run to end the set 25-17, giving the Huskies a 2-0 lead into the break with momentum clearly on their side.
The Huskies carried the good vibes into the third set by opening with a 13-4 lead. From there, NIU rallied to finish the match with a 25-16 victory.
Wicinski led the team with 15 kills and hit .344. Kurisch was just a little better as she posted 12 kills and a .579 hitting percentage, adding four aces to boot. Angelos was the most efficient, netting seven kills on 10 swings with no errors for a .700 hitting percentage. Allison McGlaughlin (Morton, Ill./Morton) chimed in with nine kills and hit .364. Paving the way for the offense was Kristin Hoffman (Batavia, Ill./Batavia), who tallied 37 assists, the 19th of which made her just the third Huskie to ever accumulate 4,000 career helpers.
"Mary had a great match, both at the net and with her serve," Gooden said. "Lauren did a good job; all of our attackers did a real nice job. It was a fun match for us getting ourselves ready for a real big match tomorrow night."
Defensively, Amber Walker (Juneau, Alaska/Juneau Douglas/Western Oregon) paced the Huskies with 15 digs from the back row.
The Huskies wrap up their MAC home schedule with a 7 PM CT tilt against Ball State (22-4, 11-2 MAC) tomorrow on senior night. With Western Michigan's (22-5, 11-2 MAC) five-set win over BSU tonight, there is a three-way tie for first place now in the MAC West Division between NIU, BSU and WMU.