Northern Illinois Opens MAC Play at Western Michigan, Bowling Green

GO HUSKIES Senior libero Justine Schepler and the Huskies battle MAC contenders Western Michigan and Bowling Green this weekend
Senior libero Justine Schepler and the Huskies battle MAC contenders Western Michigan and Bowling Green this weekend

Sept. 25, 2013

Match Notes
WMU: Live Stats | Live Streaming
BGSU: Live Stats | ESPN3
DeKALB, Ill. – After ending their non-conference season at 8-6, the Northern Illinois volleyball team moves into Mid-American Conference play this week when they hit the road the take on Western Michigan and Bowling Green.
Both matches are slated to begin at 6 p.m. CT. Saturday’s NIU-BGSU match will be aired live on Time Warner Cable SportsChannel (check local listings) and ESPN3.
“We’ve been working really hard through our practices and non-conference matches to get prepared for this moment,” said NIU Head Coach Ray Gooden. “There’s nothing like getting started against the prohibitive favorites on each side. With that, we know that every single match in our 16 conference match schedule is going to be a challenge.”
The Huskies capped their out-of-conference season with a 3-0 weekend to win the Huskie Invitational. After knocking off George Washington and IPFW on Friday, NIU clinched the title with a convincing 3-0 sweep of Oakland. Senior libero Justine Schepler was named the tournament MVP after notching 4.6 digs/set in the three contests, while Mackenzie Roddy, Jenna Radtke and Emily Paschke all earned all-tournament recognition.
This weekend, NIU will face the two top-ranked teams in the MAC preseason poll in WMU and BGSU. Winners of the last two MAC West Division titles, the Huskies and Broncos are once again expected to be at the top of the division standings, with Thursday’s conference lid-lifter expected to be a critical one for both teams in the division.
Meanwhile, the Huskies will meet the Falcons Saturday night just 10 months removed from a crushing 3-2 loss to BGSU in the 2012 MAC Championship match.
Scouting Western Michigan
Western Michigan comes into Thursday’s contest with a 7-6 record on the year. At last weekend’s Flyer Classic in Dayton, Ohio, the Broncos swept Wright State, 3-0, but lost to Dayton and Western Kentucky - two teams that have spent time in the AVCA Coaches Poll - by identical 3-1 scores. The Broncos have plenty of senior leadership in outside hitter Rachel Sheffer (2.55 kills/set) and libero Lena Oliver (4.65 digs/set). However, they have also gotten plenty of contributions from the younger members of the team, most notably from Stephenee Yancy (team-high 4.18 kills/set), Alysia Baznik (2.16 kills/set) and Ave Stout (0.89 blocks/set). The Huskies lead the all-time series with WMU, 30-20, but each team has won three times in the last six meetings.
Scouting Bowling Green
Defending conference champion Bowling Green starts MAC play with a 3-8 record on the year. Yet, a deeper look reveals that the Falcons have played one of the most difficult schedules in the conference with contests against the likes of BYU, Creighton, Notre Dame, Purdue, Virginia Tech and Wisconsin. The senior-laden squad is led by Paige Penrod (3.15 kills/set), Lindsey Butterfield (2.97 kills/set), Kaitlyn Skinner (1.28 blocks/set) and Ashley Dunn (4.10 digs/set). In fact, the entire BGSU starting lineup has only one under classman, along withb three seniors, two juniors and a senior libero. NIU leads the series, 22-10, and the Huskies have won four of the last five regular season meetings between the two sides.
Nearly Unstoppable
In last weekend’s Huskie Invitational, NIU garnered sweeps against George Washington and Oakland, along with a 3-1 win against IPFW to finish the tournament with an impressive .900 set winning percentage. The performance marked the best single tournament performance since Sept. 2-3, 2011, when the Huskies also had a .900 set winning percentage at the Creighton Invitational in Omaha, Neb.
Hit It
NIU’s 3-0 weekend in the Huskie Invitational saw the team find their groove again in the attacking game. After struggling at the NM State Tournament and against Northern Iowa, the Huskies hit .295, .308 and .283 in wins over George Washington, IPFW and Oakland, respectively. Through 16 matches on the year, those marks rank as the first, fourth and fifth-best performances in attack percentage. Friday night’s .308 percentage against the IPFW Mastodons was not only a season-high, but also the best mark at home since Aug. 28, 2012, when the Huskies hit .344 in a 3-1 win against Green Bay.
Schepler Named Huskie Invitational MVP
A week removed from earning a spot on the NM State Tournament’s all-tournament team, senior libero Justine Schepler kept the accolades coming by being named the MVP of the Huskie Invitational. The Sycamore, Ill., native finished the tournament with a 4.6 digs/set average, while also recording two perfect receiving percentage performances. Schepler became the first Huskie to take home tournament MVP honors since Sarah Angelos did so last season at the Missouri State Invitational.
Look Who’s On TV!
Earlier this month, the Mid-American Conference announced that two Huskie matches - Sept. 28 at Bowling Green and Oct. 31 vs. Western Michigan - would be broadcast on the new Time Warner Cable SportsChannel. However, NIU fans across the country will now be able to watch the Huskies, as ESPN3 will carry both braodcasts online. This marks the third consecutive season that the Huskies will appear on TV and the first time that a regular season match has been broadcast.
Triple Double-Doubles
In Friday night’s 3-1 win over IPFW, the Huskies had three players record double-doubles against the Mastodons. Sophomore Alexis Gonzalez recorded 50 assists and 10 digs, while coming just short of a triple-double with seven kills. Alongside Gonzalez were outside hitters Mackenzie Roddy and Mary Grace Kelly. Roddy collected 17 kills and 17 digs and Kelly notched 11 kills and 15 digs in the win. Oddly enough, those three also collaborated for double-doubles earlier this season against Green Bay.
Gooden Plenty
In his 12th season as NIU head coach, Ray Gooden is now the longest-tenured coach in NIU Volleyball history. A three-time MAC Coach of the Year, Gooden has led the Huskies to three consecutive 20-win seasons and has guided the team to the last three MAC Tournament title matches. The program’s second all-time wins leader owns a 213-157 record at NIU, including a 102-77 mark in MAC play and an impressive 128-62 tally at home. Additionally, Gooden has coached 25 All-MAC, 19 Academic All-MAC, six MAC All-Freshman and five MAC Player of the Year selections, along with the only seven All-American selections in program history. Six players have also reached the 1,000-kill plateau under Gooden.
Up Next...
Northern Illinois plays their first two home conference contests next weekend, as they face Eastern Michigan Friday and Central Michigan Saturday. Both matches are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. CT inside Victor E. Court.

The Last Meeting
Northern Illinois1
Western Michigan3
November 8, 2012
Kalamazoo, Mich.
Huskies Drop Hard-Fought Match at Western Michigan, 3-1
Something had to give as Northern Illinois and Western Michigan entered Thursday night's Mid-American Conference West Division showdown at University Arena on three- and four-match winning streaks, respectively. Unfortunately for the Huskies (18-13, 9-6 MAC) the Broncos' (19-9, 12-3 MAC) stayed undefeated at home (7-0) for a 23-25, 26-24, 25-21, 29-27 win.

The Last Meeting
Northern Illinois2
Bowling Green3
November 18, 2012
Geneva, Ohio
Huskies Fall in Five Sets to Bowling Green in MAC Championship
An unlikely run to the 2012 Mid-American Conference Tournament championship ended in heartbreakingly unlikely fashion for No. 4-seeded Northern Illinois Sunday afternoon at SPIRE Institute. The Huskies went up 2-0 in the match and had two chances to sweep for their first MAC Tournament championship since 2001, but didn't convert either time and then Bowling Green completely turned the tables the rest of the way to win it 20-25, 24-26, 26-24, 25-20, 15-4.



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