Sept. 3, 2009
DeKALB, Ill. - After hosting an invitational last weekend, the Northern Illinois volleyball team will hit the road this weekend to play in another as the Huskies (4-1) will face a pair of 2008 NCAA tournament teams in Northern Iowa (2-2) and Middle Tennessee State (3-0), along with Georgia Tech (3-0), at the Middle Tennessee Blue Raider Bash in Murfreesboro, Tenn. NIU will face UNI on Friday at 2 p.m. CT. On Saturday, the Huskies will then take on AVCA Coaches Poll no. 36 MTSU at 2 p.m. and Georgia Tech at 7 p.m.
"I think we are all aware of how well respected all three programs are," said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. "It's going to be a great opportunity for us to see some of the best teams in the region."
Since dropping its second match of the season to Southern Illinois, NIU has rolled off three straight wins, while losing just two sets during that stretch. The Huskies have out-killed every opponent this year by a tally of 285 to 228 and have out-hit their foes .309 to .244. However, all three teams NIU will meet this weekend have done the same to their opponents.
MTSU has the largest advantage over its opponents with a 156-99 kills total and a .329-.129 hitting percentage advantage. Georgia Tech has out-killed teams 149-109 and out-hit them .315-.161, while UNI has a 141-121 kills advantage and a .218-.153 hitting percentage advantage.
"I think all the teams here are very physical and have balanced attacks," Gooden said. "They all take a lot of pride in scoring points inside-out."
The Huskies are led by the offensive trio of Allison McGlaughlin (Morton, Ill./Morton), Meagan Schoenrock (Sylvania, Ohio/Northview), and Cassie Yates (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte). McGlaughlin leads the team with 72 kills (4.00/set) and two double-doubles. Schoenrock is just one kill behind with 71 (3.94/set) and Yates has the team's highest attack percentage (.425) with 62 kills (3.44/set), along with a team-high 17 blocks (0.94/set).
The trio has for the most part been set up by Amanda Tadla
(Oak Lawn, Ill./Oak Lawn), who leads the Huskies with 202 assists (12.62), while Maddie Hughes
(St. Charles, Ill./North) anchors the defense with 89 digs (4.94/set).
Northern Iowa qualified for the NCAA tournament last season with a 25-9, 13-5 record and a third-place finish in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Panthers lost two starters, but return four plus their libero Ellie Blankenship (6.93 digs/set) and lead the all-time series against NIU 6-3 with a 3-0 win over the Huskies last year. UNI features a balanced offense that has four players with 30 or more kills in Bre Payton (38), Amy Braun (36), Beth Discher (35), and Michelle Burow (35).
"Northern Iowa has always been one of the top teams in the country and will present a good challenge for us in the early part of the season," said Gooden.
Middle Tennessee also earned a spot in the NCAA tournament last year with a 27-8, 14-3 mark and a second-place finish in the Sun Belt Conference East Division. The Blue Raiders lost just one starter and return five plus their libero Ashley Waugh (2.80 digs/set) and have not faced the Huskies before. MTSU is led by Izabela Kozon's 46 kills (4.60/set), while Stacy Oladinni has 34 kills (3.40/set), along with a team-best nine blocks (0.90/set).
"Middle Tennessee might be the most physical team we play all season," Gooden said. "They run their offense at an amazing tempo."
Georgia Tech posted a 20-10, 12-8 record in the Atlantic Coast Conference last season with a sixth-place finish. The Yellow Jackets lost three starters and their libero, but return four and have not faced the Huskies before either. Georgia Tech is led by Monique Mead's 37 kills (3.36/set), while Asia Stawicka has 22 kills (2.00/set), along with a team-high 15 blocks (1.36/set).
"Georgia Tech is another quality BCS program with a very solid staff and talented core of players," said Gooden.