Nov. 12, 2010
DeKALB, Ill. - For the second season in a row, the Northern Illinois volleyball team earned a bye in the first round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament. The Huskies did so in sweet fashion with a sweep of Eastern Michigan (25-23, 26-24, 25-22) on Friday night at NIU Convocation Center's Victor E. Court.
"In the short term, it's a reward for hard work in the regular season," said NIU head coach Ray Gooden of the first round free pass. "It was nice for us to be able to pull that out. It means nothing when we get to Toledo next week, but it lets us not worry about a Tuesday match so we can get ready for Friday."
Hitting .307 as a team, NIU racked up 50 kills en route to its 15th three-set victory of the season and sixth consecutive win at home. The Huskies are now 14-2 at "The Dog House." More importantly, NIU improved to 11-4 in the MAC and 25-5 overall, a win total that hasn't been achieved since 1998.
In getting their fifth straight triumph against the Eagles (23-9, 10-5 MAC), who entered the match tied for second in the MAC West Division along with NIU and Western Michigan, the Huskies had to circumnavigate two sizeable deficits in the final two sets.
Trailing 17-12 in the second set, the Huskies stormed back with an 8-3 run, tying the score with help from a pair of putaways by sophomore outside hitter Meghan Romo (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso). From there, the teams exchanged points and needed extra to decide the set. A blast off the right hand of freshman Lauren Wicinski (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) set up NIU's second attempt at set point, and NIU capitalized. Junior outside hitter Allison McGlaughlin (Morton, Ill./Morton) delivered a roll shot that went off the EMU block and rolled along the top of the net, falling far away from any Eagle player.
NIU overcame a 10-6 deficit in the third set as McGlaughlin tallied a kill and an ace on back-to-back plays to fuel a 5-1 set-tying spurt. Then, with the score tied at 12-12, the Huskies took the lead for good on a Wicinski kill.
"I'm very proud of how we were able to take advantage of our opportunities tonight," said Gooden. "Eastern is really good. The West [Division] is really good. Both teams are having historic years. We put ourselves in spots to be successful. We were able to take advantage of a few opportunities tonight. That was the best part. It wasn't just one person, it was the entire group. That's what I really liked about tonight."
Wicinski led the Huskies with a phenomenal performance, registering team-highs of 19 kills and 16 digs for her 13th double-double. The nation's top freshman in points, kills and aces also hit a precise .455 to go along with one ace and two blocks to total over 20 points for the 16th occasion with 21.5.
McGlaughlin and sophomore middle blocker Mary Kurisch (La Crosse, Wis./West Salem) had stellar performances, as well. McGlaughlin netted 11 kills, while Kurisch turned in seven with a .357 attack percentage.
Senior libero Maddie Hughes (St. Charles, Ill./North), reigning MAC West Defensive Player of the Week, continued her outstanding play by digging up 14 balls to help hold EMU to a .246 attack percentage.
The Huskies put the finishing touches on the MAC regular season tomorrow on Senior Night against Central Michigan (13-14, 7-8 MAC) at 7 p.m. (CT).