Oct. 11, 2007
DeKalb, Ill. - After earning two crucial wins on the road last weekend, the Northern Illinois volleyball team will look to add two more this weekend and extend their three match winning streak. On Friday, October 12, the Huskies (9-11, 3-3) will be in Akron, Ohio to face the Akron Zips (9-10, 1-5) at 5 p.m. On Saturday, October 13, NIU will travel to Buffalo, N.Y. to take on the Buffalo Bulls (2-20, 1-5) at 6 p.m.
The Huskies have been playing excellent defense lately, ranking in the top three in the Mid-American Conference in both blocks and digs. In MAC play, the Huskies lead the way with 20.92 digs per game and NIU's 2.54 blocks per game ranks third in the conference with sophomore Jessica Schultz (Beaver Dam, Wis. / Beaver Dam / Kishwaukee C.C.) leading the MAC with a 1.29 average.
"Jess has worked really hard to get better at blocking," said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. "She has to be a pretty good blocker for us and she has worked really hard on improving that skill. It's nice to see at this point of the season.
"For our team, it's great because those are fast points that we can score," Gooden continued. "We are in good spots to block and that comes from our serving. So, we're very happy about that at this point."
Junior Irene Johnson (Schaumburg, Ill. / Schaumburg) continues to set the pace for NIU. Johnson's performance last weekend earned her the honor of MAC West Division Player of the Week. Johnson has posted a double-double in three straight matches and in conference action she has averaged 3.80 kills and digs per game, which ranks her sixth in the MAC in both categories.
Leading the Huskies in kills is sophomore Meagan Schoenrock (Sylvania, Ohio / Northview), who averages a MAC fifth-best 4.29 kills per conference contest. Senior Mandi Caputo (Chicago, Ill. / Immaculate Heart of Mary / DePaul) has a team-high average of 12.26 assists per game, which ranks her second in the MAC. Freshman Maddie Hughes (St. Charles, Ill. / North) leads the Huskies defensively with 5.23 digs per contest (third in MAC) as NIU looks to put a solid end to the four game road trip.
"We want to end [the road trip] on a positive note," said Gooden. "We want to play well and compete hard against Akron and do the same thing against Buffalo. Both matches are very important to us and we will need to play our best volleyball to beat both teams."
NIU leads the all-time series versus the Zips, 14-8, with the last match being a 3-1 win for NIU at home on November 10, 2006. Akron is led by Elizabeth Martin's 2.95 kills per MAC game and Kara Smith's 8.42 assist per game. On defense, the Zips are led by Megan Rodriguez, who averages 3.95 digs a game.
"Akron is pretty physical," Gooden said. "They have a good setter and traditionally play strong defense."
The Huskies also lead the all-time series with Buffalo, 9-2. The last match between the two resulted in a NIU 3-0 win at home on November 11, 2006. The Bulls are headed by Claudia Neba, who posts 2.07 digs per conference game. Lindsey Schlegel has a team-high average of 8.53 assists a game. Defensively, Lizaiha Garcia leads the Bulls with 4.42 digs per game.
"Buffalo is young with a lot of talent," said Gooden. "They are very physical at the net and with their attacking. We are going to have to serve tough and play consistent against both teams to be successful."