Sept. 28, 2011
DeKALB, Ill. - The Northern Illinois volleyball team embarks upon its first Mid-American Conference road swing this weekend with matches against West Division foes Ball State and Toledo. The Huskies will face BSU (13-2, 2-0 MAC) Friday at 6 p.m. CT in Muncie, Ind., and UT (6-8, 1-1 MAC) Saturday at 4 p.m. in Toledo, Ohio.
How To Follow
Friday's match against Ball State will have live stats and audio available for free on BallStateSports.com. A live video stream will also be available for purchase.
Saturday's contest versus Toledo will have live stats on UTRockets.com. Streaming live video will be available for purchase as well.
Building Off Historic 2010 Campaign
NIU returns all but one player from last season's team that finished second at the Mid-American Conference tournament, tallying the most wins (27) since 1998 and best conference finish since 2001. The Huskies got off to a record 11-0 start to 2010 and ended the season ranked fifth in the country in wins, 29th in winning percentage (.771), 31st in hitting percentage (.256), 33rd in kills per set (14.01) and assists per set (13.07), and 38th in aces per set (1.52).
Individually, the Huskies had six MAC West Division Player of the Week selections, including Lauren Wicinski's school career record five in just her freshman season. Wicinski also became the first in league history to garner MAC Player and Freshman of the Year in the same season. Additionally, she became the second Huskie to earn AVCA Honorable Mention All-American recognition, and the first to do so as a rookie. Joining Wicinski on the All-American list was teammate Kristin Hoffman, who became the program's first ever ESPN/CoSIDA Academic Third Team All-American. Hoffman's classmate Allison McGlaughlin was also recognized on the ESPN/CoSIDA Academic All-District 5 First Team. Wicinski and Hoffman were honored on the All-MAC First Team as well, while graduated libero Maddie Hughes was a Second Team selection.
Entering his 10th season as NIU head coach, Ray Gooden is coming off his most successful season. The program's second all-time wins leader owns a respectable 168-133 record at NIU, including a 100-90 mark in MAC play and an impressive 96-54 tally at home. Gooden is in the process of leaving an indelible mark on the program as the top three place holders in kills, kills per set, attack attempts and points all played under Gooden, as well as the top two holders in digs and digs per set.
Additionally, Gooden has coached 17 All-MAC, five MAC All-Freshman and two MAC Player of the Year selections, along with the only three All-Americans in program history. Four players have also reached the 1,000-kill plateau under Gooden: Tara Lobdell, Kate McCullagh (1,936 kills, second in MAC history), Meagan Schoenrock, and Allison McGlaughlin, who has another year to add to her total.
Starting Off On The Right Foot
For the fourth straight season, and ninth time in 10 tries under Gooden, the Huskies won their season opener. The triumph was a 3-1 decision over IUPUI on Aug. 26. The lone season in which NIU did not win its first match came in 2007, when the Huskies fell in five sets to Indiana at Victor E. Court. The Huskies are also 9-1 in home openers under Gooden.
With a 3-0 sweep at Green Bay Aug. 30, the Huskies won their third straight road opener, marking their 16th consecutive win against the Phoenix, who NIU is 19-1 against all-time.
By sweeping Central Michigan last Friday at home, the Huskies claimed their MAC season opener for just the second time in 10 years under Gooden.
Huskie Hold Their Own
The opening weekend's NIU Invitational featured three 2010 NCAA Tournament Teams that received votes in the 2011 AVCA Preseason Poll: Cincinnati (Received 22 votes), No. 18 Iowa State, and No. 14 Northern Iowa. The Huskies swept Cincinnati and hung tough with ISU and UNI, scoring under 20 points in only two of seven sets against the top 20 duo and claiming the first set against ISU, 25-21. NIU also held its opponents at the invite to a .253 attack percentage while the Huskies hit .280.
NIU Invitational All-Tournament
The sophomore duo of Sarah Angelos and Lauren Wicinski earned all-tournament honors at the NIU Invitational. Angelos totaled 30 kills and six blocks in the four matches, while Wicinski notched 76 kills, 45 digs, nine blocks and five aces.
Wiz Captures First MAC West Offensive Player of the Week Honor of 2011
Just like she did last season, Lauren Wicinski garnered the first Mid-American Conference West Division Player of the Week honor of the year, the league announced Aug. 30. In four matches at the NIU Invitational, she earned an all-tournament selection as she compiled MAC-best 5.43 kills per set with a .312 hitting percentage and five aces.
And She Makes It Seven A Month Later
After a stellar performance in the MAC opening weekend, Lauren Wicinski grabbed her seventh career MAC West Player of the Week award, and second of the season, on Monday. She continues to add to her school career record total as she totaled 48 kills (6.86/set) and hit .287 with four aces in two matches.
NIU has outhit its opponents this season to the tune of .275-.228. The Huskies are 10-0 when they outhit their opponents and 2-4 when they do not. The two wins came at Green Bay (Aug. 30) and at Milwaukee (Sept. 6). The hitting edge has led to a 15.15-12.85 kills discrepancy for NIU.
Huskies Win Bluejay Invitational
On Sept. 2-3, the Huskies went 3-0 to claim the Bluejay Invitational title. NIU took down host Creighton 3-0, Marquette 3-1, and South Dakota 3-0. Lauren Wicinski took home tournament MVP and Kristin Hoffman was named to the all-tournament team as well. Wicinski totaled 49 kills, 31 digs and seven aces during the tournament, while Hoffman handed out 121 assists along with netting 19 digs and eight kills.
On Sept. 10, the Huskies wrapped up an eight-match, 12-day road swing with an impressive 7-1 record. The lone loss came to Texas A&M on the second-to-last match of the trip during Stephen F. Austin's Ladyjack Invitational. Lauren Wicinski (35 kills, nine digs, three aces, two blocks) and Kristin Hoffman (85 assists, 15 digs) were named to the all-tournament team for their outstanding efforts at SFA.
If NIU Was Not A Member Of The MAC
The Huskies would be off to great starts in the Horizon League and Big East, if they were members of either conference. With the non-conference schedule complete, despite a rematch with the Big East's Marquette on Nov. 26 at home, NIU is 3-0 against Horizon League foes and 3-0 versus Big East opponents. Among Horizon League wins, the Huskies have taken down Green Bay, Milwaukee and Illinois-Chicago without dropping a single set. In the Big East, the Huskies have topped Cincinnati, Marquette and South Florida, losing only one set to Marquette.
NIU Receives Votes In AVCA Top 25 For First Time Since 2001
For the first time since 2001, the Huskies received votes in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Top 25 Poll, as voted on by the nation's coaches. NIU received six votes in the September 5th poll.
Despite a tough loss to Texas A&M on Sept. 10, the Huskies received four votes in the September 12th and September 19th polls to remain in the top 25 mix for three straight weeks. Three of NIU's four losses this season have been to No. 14 Northern Iowa, No. 16 Iowa State, and Texas A&M, who received seven votes in the latest poll.
Countdown to 1,000 Kills
In just her sophomore year, Lauren Wicinski is already closing in on becoming the 17th Huskie to reach the 1,000-kill plateau. She currently has 922 kills, needing 78 more to reach 1,000. At her pace of 17.88 kills per match, she could get the milestone kill in the next four or five matches. When she does tally No. 1,000, she will be the fastest in NIU history to get there.
Leaders of the MAC
As of Sept. 26, the Huskies, who were the Mid-American Conference coaches' preseason pick to win the league, lead the MAC in kills (15.15/set) and assists (14.17/set). They also rank second in hitting percentage (.275) and aces (1.52/set), and third in digs (15.76/set).
Individually, Lauren Wicinski, the reigning MAC Freshman and Player of the Year, leads the league in points (6.35/set), kills (5.40/set) and aces (0.62/set), and is 10th in hitting percentage (.309). Kristin Hoffman paces the MAC in assists (12.34/set). Sarah Angelos is fifth in the league in hitting percentage (.339). Amber Walker ranks seventh in digs (3.61/set).
Leading the Country
As of Sept. 26, NIU leads the NCAA in kill and assists, ranks 13th in hitting percentage. The Huskies also rank 50th in aces and 85th in digs.
Individually, Lauren Wicinski leads the nation in points and kills, and is third in aces. Kristin Hoffman also leads the nation in assists.
The Cardinals won their first nine matches of the season and stand at 13-2 overall. Their two losses have come against the Big Ten's No. 13 Purdue and Michigan State, both on the road. Since then, the Cardinals have reeled off four straight wins. In the MAC opening weekend, BSU beat Toledo in four sets at home and took down Akron in four sets on the road. IUPUI is a common opponent of the Huskies and Cardinals and both teams won (NIU 3-1 at home; BSU 3-0 on the road). The Cardinals hold significant edges in kills (13.80-11.26), hitting percentage (.257-.170) and digs (14.48-12.24) over their foes.
BSU leads the all-time tilt over the Huskies 26-25. The Cardinals claimed the series lead with a 3-0 win at home on Oct. 30, 2010, in the last contest between the two teams. BSU has won four straight against the Huskies since NIU defeated the Cardinals 3-1 on the road on Nov. 15, 2008.
The Rockets are 6-8 overall after winning their first three matches of the season. They split their MAC opening weekend with a 3-1 loss at Ball State and a 3-0 win at Buffalo. Both NIU and UT have played Texas A&M at a neutral site and lost (NIU in four sets; UT in three sets).
NIU owns a 29-9 advantage in the series with Toledo. The Huskies have won nine of their last 11 meetings with the Rockets, including a 3-1 triumph in the most recent matchup in the MAC semifinals on Nov. 20, 2010, in Toledo at the Seagate Center.
The Huskies return home next week to host Western Michigan on Thursday, October 6, at 7:00 p.m. and Miami (Ohio) on Saturday, October 8, at 7:00 p.m.