Nov. 4, 2009
DeKALB, Ill. - After finishing the regular season with a 9-5 home record, the Northern Illinois volleyball team will look to improve its road record as the Huskies (13-12, 7-5 Mid-American Conference) finish the regular season with four straight road matches over the next two weeks. NIU will begin this week with a Thursday 6 p.m. (CDT) MAC contest against West Division first-place Western Michigan (18-9, 10-2 MAC) and then will travel to face Bowling Green (10-17, 3-9 MAC) on Saturday at 2 p.m.
"I thought we had a fairly successful run at home and now we have to continue to improve and do it on the road," said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. "We are excited for the challenge."
As the Huskies continue to pursue a top-four seed to get a first round bye in the MAC Tournament on Nov. 17-22, they currently rest in a tie with Central Michigan (14-8, 7-5 MAC) for the fourth spot. Similar to the Huskies, the Chippewas will also be on the road this weekend as they face Toledo on Friday and Ball State on Saturday. Both teams stand two games behind third-place Miami (Ohio) (14-10, 9-3 MAC) and two games ahead of fifth-place Buffalo (15-11, 5-7 MAC) and Toledo (14-10, 5-7 MAC).
Thursday's contest against WMU will feature two of the best offenses in the league as during conference matches the Broncos rank second in hitting percentage (.237), assists (12.80/set) and kills (13.78/set), while the Huskies rank fourth in hitting percentage (.230) and assists (12.29/set) and rank fifth in kills (13.22/set). The match will also feature two very active back rows as WMU leads the league in digs during conference matches (17.84/set) and NIU ranks third (15.93/set).
Since dropping a pair of road matches to Akron and Buffalo on Oct. 16-17, the Broncos have recovered with a four-match winning streak. NIU has had a similar run lately as the Huskies have won seven of their last nine matches since dropping three straight to Ball State, Toledo and Western Michigan on Sept. 24-Oct. 1. WMU leads the all-time series against NIU 28-15.
"We feel that Western is the most efficient team in the conference," said Gooden. "They give away very few points. In order to compete against them, we must do a really good job of matching their efficiency."
Saturday's match will have the Huskies going up against a Bowling Green team that ranks sixth during conference matches in hitting percentage (.206) and kills (12.69/set), seventh in aces (1.02/set), ninth in digs (13.73/set) and tenth in assists (11.56/set).
Since losing 13 of 14 matches from Sept. 18-Oct. 13, the Falcons have won three of their last six with a home win against Eastern Michigan and road wins over Ball State and Buffalo. The Huskies lead the all-time series 20-8 and swept BGSU last year in DeKalb.
"I don't think at any time this season we've made a special mention to any team's record because, this year especially, records mean absolutely nothing," Gooden said. "Bowling Green had struggled earlier in the year, but they are playing some of their best volleyball at this important time of the year."
Both matches will have live stats available on wmubroncos.com and bgsufalcons.com, respectively.