Oct. 24, 2007
DeKalb, Ill. - With only a handful of Mid-American Conference matches left to play and a three-way tie for second place in the West Division, every match for the Northern Illinois volleyball team is key in determining seeding for the MAC Tournament. The Huskies (11-13, 5-5) will face MAC West leader Western Michigan (16-8, 7-3) on Thursday, October 25 at 7 p.m. and MAC East co-leader Miami (Ohio) (12-7, 9-1) on Saturday, October 27 at 7 p.m.
After taking sole possession of second place by winning a pair matches two weekends ago, the Huskies dropped two matches this past weekend, putting them back in a three-way tie for second place with Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan. NIU now faces two of the MAC's best teams this week on shorter rest than normal with a Thursday night match against Western Michigan.
"We need to work on trying to execute much better," said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. "We did some good things against Kent State last weekend and the same against Ohio, but just didn't do it long enough. We need to play better for a longer period of time and find ways to score points."
Against the Broncos last season on November 2, 2006, the Huskies had a chance to clinch the MAC West title with a win or a Central Michigan loss. That night, NIU broke the Victor E. Court attendance record with 612 fans, but the Huskies couldn't get past WMU, losing 3-1. However, CMU also lost that night, giving NIU the MAC West Title.
On Thursday, the Huskies will look to make up one match of a two match deficit to the Broncos in front of another record crowd as the theme for the match is "HalloWIN: Bashin' the Broncos." One lucky student will walk away with $1000 as NIU hopes to eclipse the previous attendance record to cheer the Huskies on to victory.
"Anytime you can get a festive crowd it's a bonus," said Gooden. "It's a great opportunity for our team to get back on the right track with an enthusiastic crowd."
Leading the way for NIU will be sophomore Meagan Schoenrock
(Sylvania, Ohio / Northview), who leads the Huskies with 4.10 kills per game. Not too far behind Schoenrock is junior Irene Johnson
(Schaumburg, Ill. / Schaumburg), who is averaging 3.83 kills a game. Senior Mandi Caputo
(Chicago, Ill. / Immaculate Heart of Mary / DePaul) sets up the NIU hitters with a MAC best 12.74 assists per game. Freshman Maddie Hughes
(St. Charles, Ill. / North) anchors the MAC's top digs team with 4.89 per game.
WMU leads the all-time series against the Huskies 24-15 with the last meeting being a WMU 3-1 win on September 30, 2007 in Kalamazoo, Mich. The Broncos will be led by the MAC kills leader Michelle Moore, who averages 4.92 kills per game. Sam Viox has a Bronco-high average of 9.76 assists a game and Caitlin Strimel leads the MAC with 5.78 digs per game.
"Western Michigan is one of the top offensive teams in our conference," Gooden said. "They win a lot of their games by having more kills than the other team. The play with good ball control and are very strong. We definitely have a very tough match on our hands."
The all-time series between the Huskies and RedHawks is tied at 14-14 with the last meeting being a NIU 3-2 win in Oxford, Ohio on November 4, 2006. Miami will be led by Megan Griffin's 3.22 kills per game and Carli Reihman's MAC third best 0.51 service aces per game. Andrea Atteberry has a team-high average of 12.03 assists per game and Melissa Zenz leads the RedHawks with 4.48 digs a game.
"Miami, technically, is the best team in the East division," Gooden said. "They're experienced, physical and they play at a high level. We have to be ready for a match against their style, especially our serves versus their serves."