Oct. 7, 2009
DeKALB, Ill. - With two home Mid-American Conference matches this weekend, the Northern Illinois volleyball team will wrap up the first of two four-match homestands this season as the Huskies (7-10, 1-3 MAC) will take on Central Michigan (10-4, 3-1 MAC) at 7 p.m. CT on Friday and Eastern Michigan (3-17, 2-2 MAC) at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
The Huskies will be looking to improve upon their 5-3 record at Victor E. Court this season as they are coming off a huge sweep of Miami (Ohio) on Saturday that gave NIU its first conference win of the season. In order to have a successful weekend, the Huskies will hope to continue to dominate the net like they did against Miami when they out-blocked the RedHawks 15 to seven. NIU will also look to out-kill (451-408), out-serve (35-21) and out-dig (510-466) its opponents at home as the Huskies have done all season.
"Last Saturday's match against Miami was a nice result," said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. "We thought that we had a pretty good week of practice and we are glad that the Miami match showed the result of that. Now it's a matter of being able to not only equal that performance, but step it up a notch because Central and Eastern come in ahead of us in our division."
Heading into this week's matches, NIU ranks first in the league in assists (12.27/set), second in kills (13.28/set), fourth in digs (14.98/set) and fifth in hitting percentage (.209). Sophomore Allison McGlaughlin (Morton, Ill./Morton) leads the team and ranks fourth in the MAC in kills (3.88/set), while senior Meagan Schoenrock (Sylvania, Ohio/Northview) ranks ninth (3.35/set). Fellow senior Cassie Yates (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) is tops on the squad in hitting percentage (.313), which puts her seventh in the MAC.
Defensively, junior Maddie Hughes
(St. Charles, Ill./North) leads the league in digs (4.78/set) and is the reigning MAC West Defensive Player of the Week after averaging 6.86 digs per set and amassing zero errors in 37 reception attempts last week.
NIU's first opponent of the weekend, Central Michigan, comes into the match after a 2-0 conference weekend with home wins over Ball State (3-2) and Toledo (3-0), and has won eight of its last nine matches. The Chippewas feature a stingy defense that ranks second in the league in opponent hitting percentage (.172) and third in digs (15.31), while CMU also ranks second in aces (1.82/set).
The CMU offense is led by Lauren Krupsky (3.59 kills/set) and is run by Stephanie Budde (9.79 assists/set), while the defense is captained by Alexis Lonneman, who is second in the MAC behind Hughes with 4.71 digs per set.
The Huskies lead the all-time series against CMU, 22-16, and the teams split both matches last season as each team was swept on its own court.
"Central has traditionally been a strong team with their serve and with their play at the net, both blocking and attacking," Gooden said. "They have a young group, but they are very physical."
Eastern Michigan enters the weekend after a pair of league wins over Toledo (3-1) and Ball State (3-1) as well, but fell to Oakland (3-1) at home last night. Prior to their match with NIU, the Eagles will face Western Michigan on the road on Friday.
The Eagles' offense is led by Rachel Iaquaniello (3.22 kills/set) and is managed by Ashley Mason (8.23 assists/set). On defense, EMU is anchored by Haley Stein (4.42 digs/set).
NIU leads the all-time series versus the Eagles, 21-17, and both teams defended their home courts against each other last year, splitting the series with a pair of five-set contests.
"Eastern is similar to Central in that they are young too," said Gooden. "Eastern's strength is their play at the net with their blocking."
Fans that attend Friday's match, sponsored by Best Buy, will be given a free rally flag while supplies last and those that come to Saturday's match can take advantage of a pair of promotions as it is "Girl Scout Night" and "Youth Team Day." Any Girl Scouts in uniform (sash, vest, etc.) and any youth volleyball players age 12 and under wearing their team jersey will receive free admission to the match. Both matches will also have live stats through GameTracker on niuhuskies.com.