Oct. 29, 2008
DeKalb, Ill. - With a "Better Than 2007 Night" home match against first-place Western Michigan (18-3, 9-1) and a road contest with second-place Miami (Ohio) (14-8, 8-2), the Northern Illinois volleyball team will look to move up from its third-place standing in the Mid-American Conference West Division this week.
"Again, just like last week was the most important week, this week becomes the most important week," said NIU head coach Ray Gooden of his team's matches with MAC West opponent Western Michigan on Thursday at 7 p.m. CST and MAC East foe Miami on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Oxford, Ohio. "In the standings, we are playing against two of the best teams in the MAC, but we have to look at them as two important matches, like every other match has been."
For Thursday's match against the Broncos at Victor E. Court, fans can be a part of "Better Than 2007 Night" where admission will be just $1 as the Huskies hope to break the attendance record of 635, which was set against the Broncos last year. Fans who wear a costume to the match have an opportunity to win the costume contest. Fans can also enter a raffle to win prizes such as two tickets to see country singer-songwriter Jason Aldean or gift certificates from various Dekalb-area businesses along with scary movie giveaways.
"It would be great to have a real positive atmosphere in our gym, especially as we head toward the tail end of the season," said Gooden. "Our crowds have played a positive role in our success at home."
The Huskies head into this week's matches after winning four of its last five matches. During that stretch, freshman Allison McGlaughlin (Morton, Ill./Morton) has emerged as a consistent performer both on offense and defense as she has totaled 62 kills (3.88/set), hit .292 and has recorded 48 digs (3.00/set). She has notched two of her three double-doubles on the year in that span and was a combined six digs shy of getting double-doubles in the other three matches.
"It's been nice to see Allison develop throughout the season," Gooden said of McGlaughlin, who ranks second on the team with 3.27 kills per set and 2.29 digs per set. "She has done a lot of positive things to help with our success."
In MAC competition, NIU ranks fifth in hitting percentage (.224), kills (12.94/set) and assists (11.83). Junior Meagan Schoenrock (Sylvania, Ohio/Northview) leads the team with a MAC-best 4.57 kills per set, which also ranks eighth in the nation. Freshman Kristin Hoffman (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) has tallied a team-high 484 assists (9.68/set) to pace the Huskie offense. On defense, senior Katie Walsh (St. Charles, Ill./North) leads the team with 0.71 blocks per set and sophomore Maddie Hughes (St. Charles, Ill./North) averages a team-high 4.33 digs per set.
Western Michigan has won its last six matches and 11 of its last 12. The Broncos lead the MAC in hitting percentage (.251), opponent hitting percentage (.143), assists (13.61/set), kills (14.72/set) and digs (18.31/set). The WMU offense is led by Michelle Moore's 3.99 kills per set, which is third-best in the league, and Jillian Mitchell ranks first in the conference in assists with 11.18 per set. Defensively, Caitlin Strimel leads the MAC in digs per set with 5.31 and Jaime Gotham ranks fourth in blocks with 0.99.
"Western is the most efficient and cohesive team in our conference," said Gooden of WMU, who leads the all-time series with NIU, 26-15, and beat the Huskies 3-0 earlier this year in Kalamazoo, Mich. on September 25. "They are playing at the highest level right now."
Miami has won seven of its last eight heading into this week's match with the Huskies. The RedHawks rank second just behind the Broncos in the same statistical categories as they have hit .249, held opponents to .149, and averaged 13.39 assists, 14.28 kills and 16.22 digs per set. Miami is led by Emily Schroeder, who nets 3.23 kills per set, while Andrea Atteberry runs the offense with an average of 11.00 assists per set. On defense, the RedHawks are led by Megan Griffin's 0.80 blocks per set and Melissa Zenz's 4.26 digs per set.
"Miami is another one of those top efficient teams," Gooden said of Miami, who has a 15-14 lead in the all-time series with NIU and beat the Huskies 3-1 the last time the two met on October 27, 2007 in DeKalb. "They are not flashy, but they are every bit as efficient as Western. I have a lot of respect for their coaching staff."
After this week's matches, the Huskies host Eastern Michigan (8-16, 3-7) next Friday at 7 p.m. and Central Michigan (14-8, 7-2) next Saturday at 7 p.m.