The Opening Serve
The 8-0 Huskies, riding the longest winning streak since 2001, have established the best start to a season in program history. With two first place invitational finishes under its belt in the first two weekends, Northern Illinois faces its first true road adventure, and the longest excursion of the season, with a flight to Elon, N.C., this weekend.
The Huskies head to the Tar Heel State after winning all nine sets at the UIC Invitational, defeating Kennesaw State, Memphis, and host Illinois Chicago. Freshman outside hitter Lauren Wicinski (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) captained the Huskies in Chicago by taking the tournament MVP honor. Wicinski's totals for the three matches: A hitting percentage of .464, 49 kills, 30 digs, 10 aces. Senior libero Maddie Hughes (St. Charles, Ill./North) also earned an all-tournament nod by compiling 25 digs and seven aces.
The great beginning to the 2010 campaign hasn't just been a two-person show, though. As a team, NIU has been better than every opponent in kills (397-270), hitting percentage (.320-.166), digs (390-309), and aces (70-17). The result of those dominant statistics: 24 Huskie wins in 27 sets this season, including a current 13-set winning streak.
Elon welcomes the three teams after a 1-2 run at the Sacramento State Invitational out in California. The Phoenix dropped the opening match of the tournament to Cal State Northridge, 3-2. Elon rebounded on Saturday with a split, getting swept by Sacramento State and winning a five-set contest over UT San Antonio.
Liberty enters the weekend following a successful showing at the UVA Holiday Inn Jefferson Cup in Charlottesville, Va. The Flames split the first day of competition with a four-set victory against George Washington and 3-0 loss to host Virginia. To finish the weekend, Liberty knocked off North Florida, 3-1.
After hosting its own tournament last weekend, Stetson travels to Elon on a three-match skid. The Hatters began their Clarion Invitational with a 3-1 win over Bethune-Cookman, but then dropped matches to Florida Atlantic (3-1), Wofford (3-1), and Wyoming (3-0).
The All-Time Series
Friday's match with Elon will be the first ever contest between the Phoenix and the Huskies.
NIU has faced Liberty just once, and came out victorious in a 3-1 decision back on August 29, 2003.
The Stetson match on Saturday will also mark a new opponent for NIU as neither school has faced each other yet.
Meet The Phoenix
Elon brings back 12 players from last season's team that posted a 23-8 record and went 9-7 in the Southern Conference. The Phoenix started the season with five consecutive wins, but have lost two of three since. Elon holds a 405-304 kills advantage over its opponents and a 430-380 edge in digs.
The offense is headed by Caroline Lemke's 2.93 kills per set. Megan McMahon averages 10.07 assists per set in running the Phoenix attack.
On defense, Ali Deatsch fronts the back row with 3.83 digs per set, while Lemke nets 0.80 blocks per set.
Meet The Flames
Liberty returns eight players from 2009, including two starters, from a squad that went 20-14, 13-3 in the Big South Conference, for a first place tie in the league, finishing second at the Big South Championship. The Flames have out-killed foes this season to the tune of 327-256.
Offensively, Kayrl Bacon's 3.96 kills per set leads the team, while Jade Craycraft averages 10.17 assists per set.
Kelly Haseman leads Liberty's defense with 5.22 digs per set. Kendle Rollins leads the Flames with an average of 0.83 blocks per set.
Meet The Hatters
Stetson has six players, four starters, back from last season's team that ended with a record of 1-27, 0-20 Atlantic-Sun Conference, finishing in 11th place.
Kaley Melville paces the offense with 2.20 kills per set and Kelli Carneal averages 7.20 assists per set.
Defensively, Monique Russell anchors Stetson with 4.88 digs per set, while Ellen Hawks leads the team with 0.80 blocks per set.
Freshman outside hitter Lauren Wicinski (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) has recorded an ace and at least one point in all eight matches, including three with five or more aces. She has at least 15 points in every match, highlighted by a 28-point outburst against College of Charleston on Aug. 28.
Freshman middle blocker Sarah Angelos (Waukegan, Ill./Waukegan) has hit over .400 in each of the last three matches, and has done so on five occasions overall. Meanwhile, Wicinski has hit over .333 in four straight. Similarly, sophomore middle blocker Mary Kurisch (LaCrosse, Wis./West Salem) has had a hitting percentage above .300 in every match, and has recorded a block in every match, as well.
MAC Leaders (As of September 7)
NIU leads the Mid-American Conference in team hitting percentage (.320), assists (13.56/set), and aces (2.59/set), while ranking second in kills (14.70/set).
Sarah Angelos and Mary Kurisch rank first (.471) and second (.449), respectively, in hitting percentage, and Lauren Wicinski ranks 10th (.340).
Wicinski leads the league in kills (4.56/set), aces (1.07/set), and points (5.94/set).
Kurisch ranks sixth in points (3.88/set), eighth in blocks (0.96/set), and ninth in kills (3.19/set).
Kristin Hoffman ranks third in assists (11.73/set).
Maddie Hughes ranks fourth in digs (4.71/set) and 10th in aces (0.42/set).
MAC Player of the Week
In her first weekend of collegiate competition, freshman Lauren Wicinski took home the Mid-American Conference West Division Player of the Week award on August 30th. Wicinski led the team with 86.5 points (5.77/set), 63 kills (4.20/set), and a whopping 18 aces (1.20/set) as she helped the Huskies go 4-0 to win the NIU Invitational, earning an all-tournament selection. She also hit .274, with four assists, eight blocks, 34 digs (2.27/set), had only two errors in 55 reception attempts, and notched two double-doubles. In a sweep of Chicago State, she hit .500 with nine kills, six aces, and three blocks for 17.5 points. In a four-set win over Oakland, she had 17 kills, 14 digs, two aces, and one block for 19.5 points. In a sweep of South Dakota, she totaled 15 kills with a .345 attack percentage, five aces, and two blocks for 21.5 points. In a five-set win over 2009 NCAA Tournament qualifier College of Charleston, she tallied 22 kills, 15 digs, five aces, and two blocks for 28 points.
The Victor E. Court Advantage
The Huskies are 81-48 at Victor E. Court and 8-1 in home and season openers since 2002. In those nine seasons, NIU has finished with a home record above .500 eight times.
Since 2002, NIU is 29-14 against intrastate opponents and is 3-0 in 2010. The Huskies have swept all three in-state foes, taking down Chicago State on August 27, Bradley on August 31, and Illinois Chicago last Saturday.
With the stellar start to the 2010 campaign, ninth-year head coach Ray Gooden improved his record to 137-121 at NIU, moving into second place on the program's win list. The 2006 Mid-American Conference Co-Coach of the Year has a 2006 MAC West Division regular season championship under his belt, along with NIU's first All-American selection (Kate McCullagh, 2006), two MAC Player of the Year selections (Kate McCullagh in 2006, Maddie Hughes in 2009), 14 All-MAC selections, four MAC All-Freshman selections, and nine Academic All-MAC selections.
A Class Above
The NIU volleyball team has held the highest grade-point average of all Huskie sports for each of the last two years and in five of the last six semesters. In the latest academic progress report, the Huskies score of 991 ranks in the top 20 percent of all volleyball teams in the country. With nine Academic All-MAC honorees since 2004, the Huskies have taken home back-to-back American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Team Academic awards for the first time in school history. Additionally, since 2002, the program has had 26 Victory Scholars (3.50+ GPA) and 32 Huskie Scholars (3.00-3.49 GPA).
The Huskies begin a season-long, seven-match home stand with a contest against Wisconsin at 7 p.m. CT on Tuesday, September 14.