Nov. 1, 2007
DeKalb, Ill. - With only four Mid-American Conference regular season matches left to be played, the Northern Illinois volleyball team sits in fourth-place in the MAC West. However, the Huskies (11-15, 5-7) have an opportunity to gain some ground this weekend with road matches against Eastern Michigan (17-10, 7-5) and Central Michigan (17-8, 7-5), who are both tied for second in the MAC West.
NIU will look to recover from a 0-4 homestand by heading on the road where the Huskies have gone 4-2 in MAC play and 6-3 overall. On Friday, November 2, NIU will face Eastern Michigan at 6 p.m. in Ypsilanti, Mich. On Saturday, November 3, the Huskies will take on Central Michigan at 6 p.m. in Mount Pleasant, Mich.
"We have worked on communication and a couple of other things that needed to be worked on," said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. "We had a good meeting on Monday about some of the areas that we need to improve upon. We had a good practice on Tuesday."
The Huskie defense continues to lead the MAC in digs, averaging 20.19 per game. Freshman Maddie Hughes (St. Charles, Ill. / North) ranks fourth in the MAC with a team-high 5.31 digs per game and over the weekend, she compiled 58 digs, including a season-high 31 in a 3-1 loss to Western Michigan.
Senior Mandi Caputo (Chicago, Ill. / Immaculate Heart of Mary / DePaul) captains the Huskie offense with a MAC leading 12.74 assists per game. Caputo helps to set up sophomore Meagan Schoenrock (Sylvania, Ohio / Northview) and junior Irene Johnson (Schaumburg, Ill. / Schaumburg), who average 3.96 (fourth in MAC) and 3.67 (eighth in MAC) kills per game.
"We need to keep up the positive energy that we create during games," Gooden said. "We need to keep that at a high level and work on keeping negative runs to a minimum."
The Huskies defeated EMU 3-1 at home in the last meeting between the two on September 29, putting the all-time series at 19-16 in NIU's favor. The Eagles are led by Becky Reenders, who averages 3.56 kills per game and a MAC second-best 1.42 blocks a game. Kate Sulewski ranks third in the MAC with 12.23 assists a game for the EMU offense. Defensively, Kim Jarzynka averages a team-high 4.53 digs per game.
"Eastern Michigan is experienced and excited to be at home because they haven't played at home for a while," said Gooden. "They are very good offensively."
CMU beat NIU 3-1 at Victor E. Court in the last match between the two, but the Huskies still lead the all-time series 21-14. The Chippewas feature the best serving offense in the MAC with an average of 2.29 aces per game. Kate Fissel leads the MAC with 0.64 service aces per game and Whitney Evers ranks third in the MAC with 0.49. Fissel also has a MAC second-best average of 4.71 kills per game. Courtney Kersten leads CMU in assists with an average of 11.77 a game. Alexis Lonneman's 4.63 digs per game leads the Chippewa defense.
"Central Michigan is the most experienced team in our division," Gooden said. "They just haven't gotten the credit that they deserve. They continue to get better and play well together. They improve offensively with each day."