Oct. 28, 2009
DeKALB, Ill. - In its final regular season home weekend, the Northern Illinois volleyball team will host Mid-American Conference matches against Toledo (14-8, 5-5 MAC) on Friday at 7 p.m. (CDT) and Ball State (10-13, 3-7 MAC) on Saturday at 7 p.m. on Victor E. Court as the Huskies (12-11, 6-4 MAC) will look to continue their winning ways over the last four weekends in which NIU has won six out of seven matches.
The Huskies, who are 8-4 at home, currently stand in a tie with Central Michigan (13-7, 6-4 MAC) for second place in the MAC West Division and for fourth overall in the conference. Both teams sit one match behind Miami (Ohio) for third overall and one match ahead of Toledo and Buffalo (14-9, 5-5 MAC) for fifth. With six contests and plenty of juggling in the standings remaining, NIU will hope for a pair of victories this weekend to help get closer to an all-important first round bye in the conference tournament that is given to the league's top four teams.
"The thing that's exciting about the MAC is that every week things are going to happen where changes in the table occur," said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. "What we have to continue to do is not be concerned with `what if,' but focus on what is presented directly in front of us."
After a Victor E. Court record breaking 731 fans attended last Saturday's sweep of Kent State, NIU will hope for a similar turnout to help the Huskies close their home schedule in fine fashion. Friday's Best Buy match versus Toledo will give the Huskies a chance to redeem themselves after losing to the Rockets on the road on Sept. 26.
NIU will get the same opportunity on Saturday against Ball State to avenge its road loss to the Cardinals on Sept. 25. Fans attending Saturday's match can pay $1 admission by showing their football ticket stub from the NIU-Akron game at 11 a.m. in Huskie Stadium. Fans can also get into the match for free by wearing a Halloween costume as the person with the best costume will win a prize.
"We really hope that our fan base realizes what an important role they play in our team's atmosphere at home," Gooden said. "We really hope that they have enjoyed the matches this season and will help us celebrate our final regular season home matches this season."
Saturday's match will also mark "Senior Night" for Monica Lang (Chicago, Ill./Marist), Meagan Schoenrock (Sylvania, Ohio/Northview), Amanda Tadla (Oak Lawn, Ill./Oak Lawn) and Cassie Yates (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte). The quartet over the last three-plus years has combined to play in 1,197 sets, compiling 2,230 kills and 1,074 digs. As freshmen, the group was part of the 2006 MAC regular season championship team and would like to end their careers similarly to the way they started.
"I was thinking the other day that this is our first class of four-year Huskies that we have had in a few years," Gooden said. "Having a group start and finish together is a rarity in our sport. That in itself is something special, not to mention seeing and being a part of their growth throughout the last four years."
Additionally, the Huskies will welcome back and honor some of their alumni during Saturday's match, featuring Cathy Holmes (Galloway) (1985-88), who will be inducted into the NIU Athletics Hall of Fame on Friday night.
Friday's opponent Toledo comes into this weekend's action on a three-match winning streak and has won four of its last five. NIU leads the all-time series against the Rockets 26-8, but lost to the Rockets in five sets on the road earlier this year.
"When we first saw Toledo they were still putting the pieces of their puzzle together," Gooden said. "As we see them again on Friday, they have won four out of their last five and are one of the hot teams in the conference. Not only will it be a difficult match because of their level of play, but a fair amount of their players come from Illinois so it will be a homecoming of sorts for them."
Saturday's opponent Ball State enters the weekend after dropping a pair of home matches last week to Bowling Green and Miami (Ohio). The Huskies lead the all-time series 25-23, but fell to the Cardinals in three sets earlier this season on the road.
"Ball State is a rival and they were our first match of the conference season," said Gooden. "We know that our team deserves to give them a better showing than we did the first time."
Both matches will have live stats available via GameTracker on niuhuskies.com.