The Opening Serve
Now that the undefeated, 11-0 school-record run to begin the season is over for the Huskies, the challenge will be to quickly regroup and get back on track. NIU will look to do this as it plays matches No. 2 and 3 of a season-long, seven-match home stand against Youngstown State and Iowa, NIU’s second Big Ten opponent of the week.
The Huskies enter the match after a record-setting 3-0 loss to Wisconsin at Victor E. Court on Tuesday night. While the longest winning streak since 2001 ended, NIU sold out Victor E. Court for the first time in the facility’s nine-year history. Additionally, for the first time all year, the Huskies did not better an opponent in kills, hitting percentage, digs, and aces. However, NIU still holds significant edges in those categories on the season, leading 567-414 in kills, .286-.172 in hitting percentage, 94-30 in aces, and 564-460 in digs. The Huskies also have a 66-59.5 advantage in blocks and have tallied 727 points to their foes’ 503.5.
Youngstown State comes to “The Dog House” following a Tuesday night four-set setback to Mid-American Conference foe Kent State at home. Prior to that match, the Penguins took down Chicago State, 3-0. On the season, YSU is out-blocking opponents 124-88.
Iowa heads east after a tough five-set loss at Drake on Tuesday. The Hawkeyes are also out-blocking their opponents, 77-69.
The All-Time Series
NIU leads the all-time tilt against Youngstown State, 4-0. The last contest between the two came in 1993, when the Huskies swept the Penguins at home on October 9 in a Mid-Continent Conference match.
The series between NIU and Iowa is tied, 6-6, but the Huskies swept the last matchup in 2001 at home on October 30, which is also NIU’s last win versus a Big Ten team.
Meet The Penguins
The Penguins return six letterwinners, with two being starters, from last year’s squad that posted a 7-21 record, 5-11 in the Horizon League, for a seventh place finish.
Marissa Hundelt leads the team with 2.32 kills per set and Dani Soubliere runs the offense with 6.73 assists per set.
On defense, Brittany McNeal’s 3.41 digs per are tops on the team and Jenna Cavanaugh leads YSU with 1.05 blocks per set.
Meet The Hawkeyes
The Hawkeyes have 10 letterwinners back from 2009, including three starters, as they went 13-19, 5-15 in the Big Ten, for a 10th place finish.
The Iowa attack is fronted by Mallory Husz (3.12 kills/set), while Paige Stevens paces the offense with 8.97 assists per set.
Bethany Yeager captains the back row with 4.97 digs per set and Husz also leads the team in blocks, averaging 1.18 per set.
With an 11-0 run to start the season, NIU established its best start in program history and longest winning streak since 2001. In that stretch, the Huskies claimed first place at three tournaments (NIU Invitational, UIC Invitational, Elon Classic) over the course of the first three weekends. Of the 37 sets during the streak, NIU was victorious in 33, winning eight three-set matches, two four-setters, and one five-setter. Statistically, the Huskies held an edge in all 11 matches over their foes in hitting percentage (.297-.160), kills (533-371), digs (531-423), and aces (93-24).
Tuesday night’s 3-0 loss to undefeated Wisconsin ended NIU’s 11-0 run in front of a sold out Victor E. Court crowd of 954, with some being standing-room-only. That number set a new attendance record at Victor E. Court and was the first time it had been sold out in its nine-year history.
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, senior libero Maddie Hughes (St. Charles, Ill./North), sophomore middle blocker Mary Kurisch (LaCrosse, Wis./West Salem), and freshman outside hitter Lauren Wicinski (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) 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.
Living Up To The Hype: The Wiz Kid
The first high school All-American to join the NIU volleyball program has lived up to the hype thus far. In her first weekend of collegiate competition, Wicinski took home the Mid-American Conference West Division Player of the Week award on August 30. She has made three all-tournament teams, including being MVP of the UIC Invitational. As of September 13, she leads the MAC in kills (4.35/set), aces (0.92/set), and points (5.53/set), while she also ranks eighth in hitting percentage (.324).
MAC Player of the Week
In her first weekend of collegiate competition, 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.
The Victor E. Court Advantage
The Huskies are 81-49 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 5-1 at home this season.
Since 2002, NIU is 29-14 against intrastate opponents.
NCAA Leaders (As of September 13)
NIU ranks second in the country in aces per set (2.51), fifth in hitting percentage (.325), 16th in kills per set (14.41), and 21st in assist per set (13.19).
Wicinski ranks third in aces per set (0.92), fifth in points per set (5.55), and 19th in kills per set (4.38).
Sophomore middle blocker Mary Kurisch (LaCrosse, Wis./West Salem) ranks 13th in hitting percentage, while freshman middle blocker Sarah Angelos (Waukegan, Ill./Waukegan) ranks 25th in hitting percentage (.418).
Junior setter Kristin Hoffman (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) ranks 26th in assists per set (11.08).
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).
Senior libero Maddie Hughes (St. Charles, Ill./North) ranks fifth in digs (4.28/set).
Kurisch ranks 10th in blocks (0.89/set).
Kurisch has tallied one or more blocks in all 12 matches, while Angelos has done so in six straight.
Wicinski has registered double-figures in points in every match. She has also had 11 straight matches with double-figure kills.
With the stellar start to the 2010 campaign, ninth-year head coach Ray Gooden improved his record to 140-122 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 resume the home stand on Tuesday, September 21, with a 7 p.m. match against DePaul before opening MAC play next weekend.