Huskies Top Ball State 3-1 to Advance to MAC Championship Sunday



Nov. 19, 2011

Final Stats

Final Box: NIU 3, BSU 1 Get Acrobat Reader

Postmatch Video Interview

GENEVA, Ohio - The No. 1-seeded Northern Illinois volleyball team took down No. 4 Ball State 3-1 Saturday afternoon at SPIRE Institute to advance to the Mid-American Conference Tournament championship match for the second straight season.

NIU's (27-5) fifth appearance in the league's title match will be at 12 PM CT against the winner of the No. 2 Ohio-No. 6 Central Michigan match. The Huskies beat Ohio in their only meeting this season and took down CMU twice during conference play.

In the regular season, NIU and BSU (24-7) as each defended its home court. Playing at a neutral site, it was the Huskies who proved to be the better team as they accumulated healthy advantages in kills (67-48) and hitting percentage (.301-.209) for NIU's 14th straight win. The streak is the longest since an 18-game run in 2001, which is also the last time the Huskies won the MAC Tournament.

"I think it's awesome [to be in the MAC championship two straight years]," said NIU Head Coach Ray Gooden as NIU tied its win total from a year ago, tying the school's fourth most wins in a season. "We had to play a great match against a really good Ball State team. [During the regular season], they won at their place, we won at our place. My hat's off to {BSU] Coach [Steve] Shondell. They played great today. We were fortunate enough to score some big points when we needed to."

The Huskies opened with a strong first set, winning most of the long rallies and outhitting the Cardinals .314-.143. Two-time reigning MAC Player of the Year Lauren Wicinski (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) got the match started for NIU with a kill and moments later served up an ace to give NIU a 6-3 lead. A few plays later, MacKenzie Roddy (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon) hammered one down to increase the lead to 13-8 and force a Ball State timeout. Out of the break, NIU continued to score and claimed a 17-10 lead after an ace from first team All-MAC selection Mary Kurisch (La Crosse, Wis./West Salem). Ball State would close within five points twice but would get no closer as NIU won 25-17 to take a 1-0 match lead.

NIU continued to play well in the second set and jumped out to a 7-3 lead after a Kurisch kill. However after a Ball State timeout, the Cardinals put together a 12-4 run to take a 15-11 lead. Out of an NIU timeout, the Huskies responded with a 10-5 spurt to reclaim a 21-20 edge following a kill from second team All-MAC selection Allison McGlaughlin (Morton, Ill./Morton). But the Cardinals answered with a kill and put away an NIU overpass to turn the table for a 22-21 lead. After the teams exchanged points, Ball State block a slide by second team All-MAC selection Sarah Angelos (Waukegan, Ill./Waukegan). Wicinski kept NIU alive with a kill in the next sequence, but the Cardinals came back with a kill to win the set 25-23 and even the match at the break.

In the critical swing set, NIU got off to another fast start. With a 7-4 lead after a McGlaughlin kill, Angelos put away an overpass to force a Ball State timeout. The Cardinals then rallied to take an 11-10 edge before a 4-0 NIU run put the Huskies on top again, 14-11, thanks to a pair of BSU miscues. A few plays later, Amber Walker (Juneau, Alaska/Juneau Douglas/Western Oregon) served up an ace for a 22-18 advantage. Ball State countered with a kill on the next play, but the Huskies would score the final three points on a Wicinski kill, BSU error, and Kurisch kill to win 25-19. In taking a 2-1 lead in the match, NIU outhit the Cardinals .250-.206 and racked up an 18-12 kills edge.

Smelling victory, the Huskies saved their best for last in the fourth set, outhitting the Cardinals (.400-.222) and totaling an 18-12 edge in kills. Up 7-4 after a BSU error and timeout, NIU increased its lead a few plays later after kills from Wicinski and Roddy. Down 14-9, the Cardinals called another timeout to regroup, but it did nothing to stop the Huskies. Not too far after the break, NIU took even more command after a diving pass by Kayla Zeno (Lake Elmo, Minn./Stillwater Area) led to a long rally ending in a McGlaughlin and Angelos combo block. The amazing sequence sent the Huskies and their faithful into an uproar, and with Ball State on its heels, NIU finished the set 25-16.

Wicinski led both sides in kills with 18, but it was Roddy who stole the show. The rookie opened the match a perfect 8-for-8 and ended with a season-high 15 kills while hitting a superb .684, the fourth highest hitting percentage in MAC Tournament history.

"I thought Roddy did a great job for us," said Gooden. "She was able to progress throughout the year and it was great for her to play some of her best volleyball at a critical time."

Kurisch also etched her name into the MAC Tournament record book with the sixth-best hitting performance as she hit .647 with no errors to total 11 kills. She also added a pair of aces. Angelos reached double figures in kills as well with 10.

"We talked about it at the beginning of the year that we did not want to be a one-horse team," Gooden said. "Whether it be Mary, Sarah, Allison, or MacKenzie, they all have done a good job all year of scoring big points for us at different times."

Setting the pace for the offense, Kristin Hoffman (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) handed out 49 assists, had two aces, and tallied three kills on seven errorless swings.

In the back row, Walker notched a game-high 23 digs. Justine Schepler (Sycamore, Ill./Sycamore) also chipped in with 12 digs.

Live stats and streaming video will be available for the championship match on The contest will also air on SportsTime Ohio TV network.