Third-Quarter Explosion Helps Northern Illinois Dismantle Central Michigan 42-10 In 98th Homecoming Contest



October 15, 2004

WOMEN’S COLLEGE VOLLEYBALL--- Northern Illinois University vs. University of Akron / at Akron, OH / J.A.R. Arena / Mid-American Conference match / Friday / October 15, 2004

FINAL SCORE: AKRON defeats NORTHERN ILLINOIS 3-1 (30-28, 31-29, 28-30, 31-29)

Box Score

Sprangers Leads Near-School Record Digging Effort, But NIU Volleyball Still Falls In Four To Akron

AKRON, OH-Northern Illinois University kept digging itself a hole and in the end, it was just one step too deep to climb out of. The Huskies had to fight back from point number one and did so every step up the way, but still eventually fell to the University of Akron 3-1 (30-28, 31-29, 28-30, 31-29) in Mid-American Conference women’s volleyball action at UA’s J.A.R. Arena Friday (Oct. 15).

NIU drops its fourth straight match and falls to 7-14 overall on the season with a 2-5 mark in the MAC. Akron, on the other hand, extends its season-long winning streak to three matches and moves to 11-8 on the year with a 3-4 record in the league.

The Huskies suffered the loss despite coming with seven digs of setting the all-time school record for digs in a match. Junior Megan Sprangers (Elgin / Larkin) led the charge by breaking the all-time Northern Illinois single-match mark with 35. Tera Lobdell (Plymouth, MN / Robbinsdale Armstrong) set a new career high with 27 “ups” while sophomore libero Gina Guide (Orland Park / Sandburg) matched her career best with 25. In spite of their efforts, the Huskies still, amazingly, were out-dug 125-123.
“Akron’s a traditionally strong defensive team,” NIU head coach Ray Gooden said. “We had to come close to matching that tonight. Both teams made some really good defensive plays to score some critical points.”

A furious Northern Illinois comeback came up just short in game one. Trailing 27-20 at one point, freshman Laura Baetzel (Chicago / Burbank Queen of Peace) took the serve, and ran off six straight points with some help from three Tera Lobdell (Plymouth, MN / Robbinsdale Armstrong) kills. NIU couldn’t quite get back to even, however, staying within one all the way to 29-28 on a Megan Markowski (Glen Ellyn / Wheaton St. Francis) kill, but an attack attempt to tie the game sailed wide and gave the Zips a 30-28 win. The Huskies hit just .080 in the first stanza, but dug 24 balls and outblocked UA 6-2.

Ironically enough, Baetzel took the serve just after Akron scored their 27th point in game two as well. Once again, the freshman spurred a run as NIU scored three consecutive points to erase a 27-24 deficit and tie the contest. Despite surrendering the next two points, the Huskies battled back to knot the game again on a Markowski put-away and a UA attack error at 29-29. Zip outside hitter Sarah Hopper skipped her next shot in for a kill, however, and it was an attack error by the visitors once again that sealed a 31-29 Akron victory.

NIU finally got over the hump and pulled out a close game in game three. Once again, the Huskies had to battle back from a big deficit, trailing 22-15 after a UA put-away. The visitors responded by scoring the game’s next seven points to even things back up, however, and the back and forth struggle was on. Both teams battled to five more ties the rest of the way before back-to-back Lobdell kills seperated the Huskies at 28-28 and gave NIU a 30-28 victory.

Akron closed the match out with another two-point win in game four. For the fourth consecutive game, the Huskies battled back from a late disadvantage. Trailing 28-23 after a service error, NIU scored six of the next seven points to stave off defeat and tie the contest at 29-29 on a block by Markowski and Kate McCullagh (Woodstock). McCullagh fell into the net on the very next point, however, and UA middle Molly Rutledge won a long rally with a shot off the ten-foot line to end the match with a 31-29 triumph.

Lobdell added 22 kills to her 27 digs to lead all players and collect her fourth straight 20-kill night. Markowski posted yet another solid night, racking up 17 kills at a .292 (17-3-48) clip with eight digs and four blocks. McCullagh---for the third time in the past two weeks-came perilously close to her first triple-double with 16 kills, 10 digs, and nine total blocks.

Northern Illinois returns to action at home by welcoming Eastern Michigan University to town Wednesday (Oct. 20). First serve is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. (CDT) at NIU’s Victor E. Court.