The Opening Serve
Something has to give in a battle of undefeated teams as the 11-0 Huskies will look to keep up their best start in program history against the 9-0 Badgers in NIU’s first home match against a Big Ten opponent since 2007. As NIU opens a season-long, seven-match home stand, the two teams have more than just an unblemished record in common. The teams feature the top two wins leaders in NIU history. Wisconsin head coach Pete Waite once fronted the Huskies and will make his first trip back to DeKalb. From 1988-98, Waite led the NIU to six conference championships and four NCAA Tournament appearances, compiling a 266-102 record, which ranks at the top of the program’s all-time wins list. Waite’s counterpart, NIU head coach Ray Gooden, ranks second all-time with a 140-121 mark as a Huskie.
NIU returns home after a very successful 6-0 road trip that saw the Huskies pick up their second and third invitational titles of the season. Over the weekend, NIU defeated Elon (3-1), Liberty (3-0), and Stetson (3-0) to claim the Elon Classic, and continued to dominate its opponents. In winning 33 of 37 sets this season, the Huskies have held an edge in every match over their foes in hitting percentage (.297-.160), kills (533-371), digs (531-423), and aces (93-24). NIU’s longest winning streak since 2001 has seen the Huskies come out victorious in eight three-set matches, two four-set, and one five-set.
Just like the Huskies, Wisconsin heads south after winning its third straight tournament. The Badgers won the Milwaukee Invitational last weekend, defeating Milwaukee (3-1) and a pair of Mid-American Conference foes Central Michigan (3-1) and Toledo (3-1).
The All-Time Series
Wisconsin leads the all-time series against NIU, 18-4. The last time the teams faced each other was in 1995, when Waite was coaching for the Huskies. The Badgers swept NIU that day, Sept. 5, in Madison. September 8, 1993 marks the last time the Huskies defeated Wisconsin as NIU swept the Badgers in DeKalb at Chick Evans Field House.
Meet The Badgers
The Badgers bring back 11 letterwinners, including five starters, from last season’s team that went 11-18, 6-14 in the Big Ten, for a seventh place tie in the conference. On the year, Wisconsin holds advantages in points (556.5-351), kills (438-285), hitting percentage (.263-.100), and aces (47-19).
Elise Walch paces the Badger offense with 3.33 kills per set. Janelle Gabrielsen runs the UW attack, averaging 11.30 assists per set.
Defensively, Kim Kuzma leads the back row with 4.66 digs per set and Alexis Mitchell averages a team-high 1.04 blocks per set.
Junior setter Kristin Hoffman (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) has recorded a kill, ace, and 20 or more assists in each of her last three matches.
Sophomore middle blocker Mary Kurisch (LaCrosse, Wis./West Salem) has notched one or more blocks in all 11 matches, while freshman middle blocker Sarah Angelos (Waukegan, Ill./Waukegan) has totaled at least one block in five straight.
Sarah Angelos has registered a hitting percentage above .333 in each of her first four matches, including a 7-for-7 performance to start the season against Chicago State on Aug. 27. Mary Kurisch has nearly done the same, hitting above .318.
Freshman outside hitter Lauren Wicinski (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) has tallied double-digit points with at least one ace in every match. She has also had 10 straight matches with double-figure kills.
Senior libero Maddie Hughes (St. Charles, Ill./North) has four consecutive contests with 10 or more digs.
MAC Leaders (As of September 13)
NIU leads the Mid-American Conference in team hitting percentage (.297), while the Huskies rank second in aces (2.51/set), third in assists (13.19/set) and kills (14.41/set), fourth in opponent hitting percentage (.160), seventh in digs (14.35/set), and ninth in blocks (1.62/set).
Kurisch (.443) leads the league in hitting percentage, while Angelos (.418) ranks third and Wicinski (.324) ranks eighth.
Wicinski leads the conference in kills (4.35/set), aces (0.92/set), and points (5.53/set).
Hoffman ranks fourth in assists (11.08/set).
Hughes ranks fifth in digs (4.28/set).
Kurisch ranks 10th in blocks (0.89/set).
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. The Huskies are 5-0 at home this season.
All-Tournament, All The Time
In winning three straight tournaments in as many weekends to kick off the 2010 campaign, several Huskies have taken home all-tournament honors. At the NIU Invitational, Hughes, Kurisch, and Wicinski were honored. Wicinski then took the MVP of the UIC Invitational as Hughes was again recognized for her outstanding play. Last weekend at the Elon Classic, Hoffman claimed the MVP, while Kurisch and Wicinski garnered all-tournament nods once again.
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 30. 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.
Since 2002, NIU is 29-14 against intrastate opponents.
With the stellar start to the 2010 campaign, ninth-year head coach Ray Gooden improved his record to 140-121 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).
NIU continues its home stand with two more matches this weekend. The Huskies will take on Youngstown State at 1 p.m. on Saturday and face Iowa at 3 p.m. on Sunday.