The Opening Serve
An eventful two days are in store for the first place Huskies, who are winners of their last five contests. On NIU’s homecoming weekend, the Huskies face a Mid-American Conference first place foe for the second time in a row on Friday against Akron. Then, two Buffalo teams come to town on Saturday as the NIU volleyball squad takes on the Bulls shortly after the NIU-Buffalo football game.
Saturday’s match marks the Huskies’ annual Pink Match during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, where free pink NIU t-shirts will be given to those who donate $5 to the American Cancer Society. Fans will also have a chance to donate to the ACS through a 50-50 raffle, where half the pot will go to the cancer research organization. Additionally, the Huskies will welcome back several players from the past as Saturday represents Alumni Night as well. The former Huskies will be recognized at the break between the second and third sets.
The cross-divisional weekend puts the Huskies up against the MAC East Division’s top team in the Akron Zips, who have won 10 of their last 11 matches. The Huskies are on a similar hot streak, winning eight of their last nine. NIU returns home for the first time in nearly two weeks after an unblemished three-match road swing. Most recently, the Huskies took care of then-West Division first place Eastern Michigan in four sets. NIU will look to keep up its exceptional play at Victor E. Court, where the Huskies hold a 10-2 record and have sizeable advantages over their opponents in kills (603-460), hitting percentage (.278-.169), assists (565-432), aces (76-31), digs (610-539), blocks (80-56), and points (759-547).
Akron enters the weekend after a split, defeating Buffalo on the road in three and falling to Toledo at home in five.
Buffalo will take on Western Michigan prior to it trek to DeKalb. The Bulls also split last weekend, and opposite of the Zips, are coming off a win as they took down Ball State at home in five.
The All-Time Series
The Huskies own a 17-8 lead in the all-time series over the Zips. NIU has won each of the last six meetings.
In the all-time tilt versus the Bulls, NIU holds a 12-2 edge. The Huskies have come out on top in the last seven matches.
Last Meeting Against The Zips
The Northern Illinois volleyball team extended its winning streak to five matches and earned its second consecutive Mid-American Conference road win as the Huskies defeated Akron in four sets on October 17, 2009 at James A. Rhodes Arena.
After losing the first set 25-22 to the Zips, the Huskies stormed back to win the second set 25-18 to set up the important swing set after the break.
In the third set, NIU came out strong with a 10-5 advantage after a kill from Kristin Hoffman. Several plays later, the Huskies extended their lead to 19-12 following a kill by Allison McGlaughlin. From there, the NIU cushion was enough to hold off a late run by Akron that narrowed the Huskie lead to 22-20 as Cassie Yates gave NIU a 2-1 advantage in the match after her power-tip on NIU's second set-point ended it, 25-22.
Similar to last night's fourth set against Buffalo, the Huskies jumped out to a large early lead in the fourth frame against the Zips as they led 7-1 after a kill from Meagan Schoenrock. However, Akron would climb within one point, 11-10, after a kill from Liz Martin. But NIU then went on a 9-3 run to open it up again and help claim the match after a 25-18 win.
Three Huskies reached double figures in kills as Schoenrock led the way with 20 and added a season-high five blocks. Yates tallied 13 kills with a .579 attack percentage and McGlaughlin had 11. Hoffman paced the offense with 44 assists and had nine digs.
Maddie Hughes led the defense with 18 digs, while Monica Lang added 11.
Last Meeting Against The Bulls
The Northern Illinois volleyball team earned its first Mid-American Conference road win of the season as the Huskies defeated Buffalo, 25-23, 22-25, 25-22, 25-17, on October 16, 2009 at Alumni Arena.
The key sequence in the match for NIU came in the first set as the Huskies led for most of the way until they saw a 21-18 lead turn into a 23-21 Buffalo advantage after a kill from Kelsey Lueders. NIU fired right back with a kill by Allison McGlaughlin and an ace by Sue Hayes to knot the score. After an attack error by the Bulls' Lauren Fensten, McGlaughlin ended the set with another kill to give the Huskies momentum and confidence heading into the second set.
Even though NIU lost the second set, the Huskies' confidence remained high as they came out after the break and claimed an early 14-9 lead in the third set following a kill from Meagan Schoenrock. From there, NIU was able to keep scoring to take a 2-1 advantage in the match.
In the fourth set, NIU kept the pressure on Buffalo by taking a 6-0 lead after an overpass kill by Schoenrock. With all of the momentum on their side, the Huskies were able to keep pace and end the match.
Schoenrock led the Huskies with 25 kills and hit .377, while McGlaughlin tallied 18 kills and 17 digs for her 10th double-double. Kristin Hoffman also notched a double-double with 47 assists and a career-best 16 digs. Additionally, Mary Kurisch totaled a season-high five blocks.
On defense, NIU was led by Maddie Hughes, who had 24 digs. Additionally, Hayes had a season-high 14 digs.
With an 11-0 run to start the season, NIU established its best start in program history and longest winning streak since 2001. In that stretch, the Huskies claimed first place at three tournaments (NIU Invitational, UIC Invitational, Elon Classic) over the course of the first three weekends. Of the 37 sets during the streak, NIU was victorious in 33, winning eight three-set matches, two four-setters, and one five-setter. Statistically, the Huskies held an edge in all 11 matches over their foes in hitting percentage (.297-.160), kills (533-371), digs (531-423), and aces (93-24).
NIU’s 14-1 non-conference run also marked the best pre-conference play stretch in school history.
The 3-0 Sept. 14 loss to undefeated Wisconsin ended NIU’s 11-0 run in front of a sold out Victor E. Court crowd of 954, with some being standing-room-only. That number set a new attendance record at Victor E. Court and was the first time it had been sold out in its nine-year history.
Big Ten Breakthrough
Just five days after falling to the Big Ten’s Badgers, NIU swept Iowa on Sept. 19 to give Gooden his first triumph over a Big Ten team, and the program’s first such win since 2001.
All-Tournament, All The Time
In winning three straight tournaments in as many weekends to kick off the 2010 campaign, several Huskies have taken home all-tournament honors. At the NIU Invitational, senior libero Maddie Hughes (St. Charles, Ill./North), sophomore middle blocker Mary Kurisch (LaCrosse, Wis./West Salem), and freshman outside hitter Lauren Wicinski (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) were honored. Wicinski then took the MVP of the UIC Invitational as Hughes was again recognized for her outstanding play. At the Elon Classic from September 10-11, Hoffman claimed the MVP, while Kurisch and Wicinski garnered all-tournament nods once again.
Living Up To The Hype: The Wiz Kid
The first high school All-American to join the NIU volleyball program and daughter of two former Huskie student-athletes has lived up to the hype thus far. In her first weekend of collegiate competition, Wicinski took home the Mid-American Conference West Division Offensive Player of the Week award on August 30. She then won the award again on September 20, October 4, and October 11. She has also made three all-tournament teams, including being named MVP of the UIC Invitational. As of October 11, she leads the MAC in points (5.74/set), kills (4.83/set), and aces (0.64/set). Additionally, as of October 11, she ranks fifth in the nation in aces, sixth in points, and eighth in kills, leading all freshmen in all three categories.
Wicinski’s mother, Gina (Graf), was an impact outside hitter for the NIU volleyball team from 1983-87 and ranks in the program’s top 15 for career aces (165, fourth), kills (1,328, sixth), points (1,641.5, seventh), solo blocks (66, 11th), and digs (1,019, 12th). Her father, Rob, was a linebacker on the Huskie football team from 1981-85 and has a ring on his finger from NIU’s 1983 California Bowl win.
Third Time’s A Charm, Four’s Another Record
In just a matter of seven weeks, Wicinski has won four MAC West Division Offensive Player of the Week accolades. After claiming the honor for the third time last week, no freshman had ever won the award twice in a season at NIU and no Huskie had ever taken home the honor three times in a career. With her fourth, became the fourth Huskie to garner the award in consecutive weeks.
In her initial weekend as a Huskie, Wicinski took home the award after she led the team with 86.5 points (5.77/set), 63 kills (4.20/set), and a whopping 18 aces (1.20/set) as she helped the Huskies go 4-0 to win the NIU Invitational, earning an all-tournament selection. She also hit .274, with four assists, eight blocks, 34 digs (2.27/set), had only two errors in 55 reception attempts, and notched two double-doubles. In a sweep of Chicago State, she hit .500 with nine kills, six aces, and three blocks for 17.5 points. In a four-set win over Oakland, she had 17 kills, 14 digs, two aces, and one block for 19.5 points. In a sweep of South Dakota, she totaled 15 kills with a .345 attack percentage, five aces, and two blocks for 21.5 points. In a five-set win over 2009 NCAA Tournament qualifier College of Charleston, she tallied 22 kills, 15 digs, five aces, and two blocks for 28 points.
Three weekends later, Wicinski netted the accolade again as she registered a team-high 42 kills (4.67/set) to lead NIU to a 2-1 record during the week. She tallied double-figure kills in all three matches and has done so in 13 straight, while leading the team in points with 45.5 (5.06/set). Against Wisconsin, she put up 15 kills and a .294 attack percentage. In a 3-0 win over Youngstown State, she notched 15 kills and a .310 attack percentage. With 12 kills and an ace in a 3-0 win over Iowa, she led the Huskies to their first win over a Big Ten opponent since 2001.
Two weekends after that, Wicinski completed the record-trifecta, sharing the award with Eastern Michigan's Rachel Iaquaniello. Wicinski totaled a team-best 47 kills (4.70/set) and .321 attack percentage, while also adding 18 digs (1.80/set), two aces, and four blocks for 52 points (5.20/set). She notched a season-high 29 kills at home against Western Michigan with a .309 hitting percentage, while also adding 12 digs, three blocks and an ace for her eighth double-double. She hit .342 with 19 kills, one block and an ace versus Miami (Ohio).
A weekend later, Wicinski came up huge in two road wins for Northern Illinois last weekend, totaling 59 points (6.56/set), 52 kills (5.78/set), and five aces (0.56/set). She put up 28.5 points, 25 kills, and two aces in a five-set win over preseason MAC West favorite Central Michigan. She then did even better by tallying 30.5 points, 27 kills, and three aces in a four-set win against then-MAC West first place Eastern Michigan, including ending the match with four kills in a row for the Huskies.
The underclassmen quadruplet of sophomore middle blocker Mary Kurisch (LaCrosse, Wis./West Salem), sophomore outside hitter Meghan Romo (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso), Wicinski and freshman middle blocker Sarah Angelos (Waukegan, Ill./Waukegan) have combined to make up over 70 percent of NIU’s total kills (76%), blocks (79%), and points (73%). Kurisch and Wicinski alone make up 49 percent of NIU’s total aces.
The Victor E. Court Advantage
The Huskies are 85-50 at Victor E. Court and 8-1 in home and season openers since 2002. In those nine seasons, NIU has finished with a home record above .500 eight times. In that same span, Northern Illinois also owns a 38-30 home advantage over MAC foes. The Huskies are 10-2 at home this season.
They Can Play Away From Home, Too
The Huskies have won each of their first five road matches. The feat has not been accomplished by NIU since 1992.
NIU is 4-1 in five-setters thus far. During their current winning streak, the Huskies put together three five-set wins in a row, something that hadn’t been done by NIU since 2006.
Since 2002, NIU is 30-14 against intrastate opponents. The Huskies are 4-0 against Illinois opponents this season.
NCAA Leaders (As of October 11)
NIU ranks ninth in the nation in aces (1.91/set) and winning percentage (.905), 23rd in hitting percentage (.272) and kills (14.03/set), and 27th in assists (13.00/set).
In addition to Wicinski’s national presence, the Huskies feature four other players high in the national rankings. Junior setter Kristin Hoffman (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) ranks 24th in assists (11.16/set). Angelos ranks 66th in hitting percentage (.351), while Kurisch ranks 110th (.333). Senior libero Maddie Hughes (St. Charles, Ill./North) stands 81st in digs (4.59/set).
MAC Leaders (As of October 11)
NIU ranks at the top of the MAC in hitting percentage, kills, and aces. The Huskies also rank second in assists, fifth in opponent hitting percentage (.177), seventh in digs (14.61/set), and eighth in blocks (1.78/set).
On top of Wicinski’s league-leading status, Angelos, Hoffman, Kurisch, and Hughes all rank in the league’s top 10 in several statistical categories as well. Angelos ranks second in hitting percentage, while Kurisch is fourth, and eighth in blocks (0.95/set). Hoffman ranks second in assists. Hughes ranks fifth in digs.
Hoffman has piled up over 45 assists in each of the last four matches, including a career-best 67 helpers September 30 in the five-set win at home over Western Michigan. She also has four matches in a row with at least one kill.
Romo has totaled one or more blocks in eight straight matches and has three in a row with, while Angelos has had at least one block in six straight. Additionally, Kurisch has tallied five-plus blocks in three consecutive.
Wicinski has registered double-figures in points in every match. She has also had 20 straight matches with double-figure kills. Additionally, she has tallied an ace in eight straight and has had one or more blocks in six in a row.
Hughes has reached double figures in digs in each of her last eight matches, including 20 or more in her last four.
Junior outside hitter Allison McGlaughlin (Morton, Ill./Morton) has totaled double figure points in seven straight matches and has had double digit kills in four in a row.
With the stellar start to the 2010 campaign, ninth-year head coach Ray Gooden moved into second place on the program’s all-time win list after claiming first place at the NIU Invitational with a win over College of Charleston on Aug. 28. His career record now stands at 148-123. Additionally, the 2006 Mid-American Conference Co-Coach of the Year has a 2006 MAC West Division regular season championship under his belt, along with NIU’s first All-American selection (Kate McCullagh, 2006), two MAC Player of the Year selections (Kate McCullagh in 2006, Maddie Hughes in 2009), 14 All-MAC selections, four MAC All-Freshman selections, and nine Academic All-MAC selections.
A Class Above
The NIU volleyball team has held the highest grade-point average of all Huskie sports for each of the last two years and in five of the last six semesters. In the latest academic progress report, the Huskies score of 991 ranks in the top 20 percent of all volleyball teams in the country. With nine Academic All-MAC honorees since 2004, the Huskies have taken home back-to-back American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Team Academic awards for the first time in school history. Additionally, since 2002, the program has had 26 Victory Scholars (3.50+ GPA) and 32 Huskie Scholars (3.00-3.49 GPA).
The Huskies hit the road again, this time for their longest conference trip of the season. The four-game swing will begin with a contest on Friday, October 22 against Kent State in Kent, Ohio at 6 p.m. CT.