Sept. 24, 2008
DeKalb, Ill. – With an 8-6 mark and the non-conference portion of its schedule finished, the Northern Illinois volleyball team begins Mid-American Conference play tomorrow against West Division favorite Western Michigan (9-2) at 6 p.m. CST in Kalamazoo, Mich.
“We have played a pretty challenging schedule because every match in conference is going to be at the same level of intensity,” said Huskie head coach Ray Gooden.
NIU heads to Kalamazoo with a well balanced offensive attack that has generated six wins in the Huskies’ last seven matches. In three of NIU’s last four matches, the offense has tallied three players with double-figure kills, led by junior Meagan Schoenrock’s (Sylvania, Ohio/Northview) 5.04 kills per set, which ranks first in the MAC and second in the nation. Along with Schoenrock, senior Irene Johnson (Schaumburg, Ill./Schaumburg), junior Cassie Yates (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) and freshman Allison McGlaughlin (Morton, Ill./Morton) have been averaging over two kills per set in the last four matches.
During that stretch, the Huskies have outscored opponents 252 to 220 and have hit .248 compared to their opponents .224 attack percentage. NIU has also racked up 25 service aces, while giving up just eight.
“Giving up only eight aces during that stretch shows that we are taking care of the ball, which leads to solid offensive output.” said Gooden. “It’s nice to have balance with our offense and not rely on just one person to carry the load.”
As a team, the Huskies rank second in the MAC in team attack percentage (.245), kills (13.45 per set) and assists (12.47 per set). McGlaughlin leads the conference in aces per set with an average of 0.55 and junior Amanda Tadla’s (Oak Lawn, Ill./Oak Lawn) 10.83 assists per set is good for second in the conference.
On the defensive side, sophomore Maddie Hughes
(St. Charles, Ill./North) leads the team with 4.09 digs per set, which ranks fifth in the MAC, and Yates has a team-best average of 0.72 blocks per set.
Western Michigan has dropped only a pair of matches in 2008, one to Wake Forest in five sets and the other to UC Irvine in three. WMU is outhitting opponents .240 to .152 and has scored 143.5 more points than its foes. The Broncos lead the all-time series, 25-15, and won the last meeting, 3-0, on November 3, 2007 in Kalamazoo.
“Western Michigan is always a tough opponent especially on the road,” Gooden said. “They have had a very successful non-conference schedule and play a very solid style of volleyball.”
WMU ranks in the top five in the MAC in hitting percentage (.240), opponent hitting percentage (.152), assists (12.56 per set), kills (13.76 per set) and digs (15.80 per set). The Broncos are led by Michelle Moore’s 3.80 kills per set, while Jillian Mitchell averages 10.68 assists per set. On defense, the Broncos have five players that average over two digs per set, led by Caitlin Strimel’s 4.56.
The Huskies host their MAC home opener this Saturday against Bowling Green (10-4) at 7 p.m. in Victor E. Court.