Sept. 10, 2009
DeKALB, Ill. - In its last non-conference road trip before starting Mid-American Conference play, the Northern Illinois volleyball team will travel to Bowling Green, Ky. to participate in the Lady Topper Volleyball Invitational this weekend. On Friday, the Huskies (4-4) will take on Memphis at 11:30 a.m. CT and Western Kentucky at 7 p.m. On Saturday, NIU will face Tennessee State at 11 a.m.
The Huskies will go into this weekend trying to get back on track after dropping three matches to some tough competition at the Middle Tennessee Blue Raider Bash last weekend. NIU will try to do so by continuing to out-kill its opponents, which is what the Huskies did to their first five foes prior to last weekend. Even after a 0-3 weekend, the Huskies still have a 382 to 362 advantage in kills over their opponents.
"We are really going to make a concerted effort to take care of our side of the court this weekend," said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. "That involves creating a strong amount of energy, which will lead to better focus and more consistent play. We came out a bit flat last weekend and we need to improve that."
The five Huskies most responsible for the kills advantage are Meagan Schoenrock (Sylvania, Ohio/Northview), Cassie Yates (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte), Allison McGlaughlin (Morton, Ill./Morton), Meghan Romo (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso), and Mary Kurisch (LaCrosse, Wis./West Salem). Schoenrock leads the team with 94 kills (3.48/set) and McGlaughlin is not far behind with 89 (3.30/set). Yates has NIU's best hitting percentage (.403), along with 89 kills (3.04/set), and is tied with McGlaughlin for the team lead in aces with five. The rookie duo of Romo (2.48/set) and Kurisch (1.63/set) has combined for 101 kills.
"One of our goals with this year's team is to not put pressure on any one person, but to find strength in numbers," Gooden said. "For us, the numbers are related to the number of players that can score, not the number of kills that one person has to score."
NIU's first opponent of the weekend will be the Memphis Tigers, who have played four overtimes in 22 overall sets and have lost nine sets by three or less points. The series between the Huskies and Tigers is tied 1-1 and it has been over 30 years since the teams last met. The Tigers are led by Katlin Inglish (2.91 kills/set) and Lauren Thompson (2.73 kills/set).
"Memphis is similar to Middle Tennessee State in regard to their athletic ability," Gooden said. "They have a lot of new players playing prominent roles so they are working to gel as a group."
After a 0-2 start, Western Kentucky has recovered by winning four out of its last five matches, most recently defeating Miami (Ohio) and Northwestern in four sets apiece last weekend. The 2008 NCAA tournament qualifiers feature a balanced offensive attack that has four players with over 50 kills, led by Jordyn Skinner's 80 kills (2.76/set). The series between NIU and WKU is also tied 1-1 with the Lady Toppers owning a 3-0 victory in the last matchup on August 25, 2007 in DeKalb.
"Western Kentucky was a tournament team last year and has had great levels of success," said Gooden. "Their record this year doesn't show their true ability."
Similar to Memphis, Tennessee State has played in four overtime sets and has lost 11 of its 25 overall sets by three points or less. The Lady Tigers are led by Terakka Walker, who leads the team with 62 kills (2.48/set) and 78 digs (3.12/set). The Huskies and Lady Tigers have met just one time before, resulting in a 3-0 NIU win in Dayton, Ohio on September 5, 1998.
"Tennessee State is another extremely athletic team that has played tough and is just looking to break through," said Gooden.
All three of NIU's matches this weekend can be followed with live stats available on wkusports.com.