Nov. 7, 2013
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DeKALB, Ill. – The Northern Illinois University volleyball team goes on the road for the last time in the regular season this weekend when they head to Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan.
The Huskies open the weekend Friday at 6:30 p.m. when they face CMU, then make the relatively quick trip down to Ypsilanti, Mich., Saturday to battle EMU.
“We have to stay consistent and play focused volleyball,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “It’s our biggest challenge to do it on the road, so we’re going to have to work really hard to do that together. We’ve been improving over the last four to six matches, so we’ve got to continue to make gains and improvements.”
NIU went 2-0 last weekend at home, as they knocked off Western Michigan and Miami (Ohio). The two victories vaulted the Huskies up to third place in the MAC West Division and fifth in the entire conference. This weekend, they can clinch a berth in the MAC Tournament with a win and some help from other teams in the conference.
Looking at the opposition, CMU is 11-13 overall and 5-7 in the MAC, as they hold on to the eighth and final spot in the MAC Tournament race. Despite the record, the Chippewas have proven to be a tough out at home, as they are 10-5 in McGuirk Arena since the start of the 2012 season.
Meanwhile, EMU has a 14-13 record overall, but is one game out of the top eight with a 4-8 MAC ledger. Saturday’s match will also serve as the Eagles’ Senior Night, making an already tough road match in Ypsilanti even more difficult.
Scouting Central Michigan
Central Michigan enters Friday’s contest with an 11-13 overall record and a 5-7 ledger in the MAC, putting them currently as the eighth seed in the MAC Tournament. Last weekend, the Chippewas dropped matches at Ball State, 3-0, and Toledo, 3-2. Yet, CMU has a 3-2 record at home this year and a 10-5 mark in Mt. Pleasant since the start of the 2012 season. Statistically, Kaitlyn McIntyre leads the Chippewas and ranks second in the conference with 4.00 kills/set, while setter Kelly Maxwell is also second in assists with 10.99 assists/set. Defensively, libero Jenna Coates averages 5.41 digs/set to rank number two in the MAC. As a team, CMU ranks fourth in attack percentage (.210) and kills (13.63 kills/set) within the conference. NIU leads the all-time series with the Chippewas, 30-20, after topping CMU Oct. 5, 3-1, in DeKalb.
Scouting Eastern Michigan
The Eagles of Eastern Michigan hold a 14-13 overall record and a 4-8 MAC mark on the year. In the previous weekend, EMU dropped road matches at Toledo (3-1) and Ball State (3-0), putting them on the outside of the MAC Tournament picture with four matches remaining. Individually, the Eagles are paced by Stacey Perinar with 2.55 kills/set, along with Erin Short and Paige Roback each posting 2.28 kills/set so far in 2013. On defense, Kelsey Jones is fourth in the conference with 1.27 blocks/set, while sophomore libero Corynne Smith is third in the MAC with 5.30 digs/set. The Huskies hold a 27-21 lead in the all-time series with EMU, including taking a 3-1 victory over the Eagles earlier this season in DeKalb.
This weekend’s matches against Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan will provide the Huskies with their first realistic opportunity to clinch a berth into the Mid-American Conference Tournament, which takes place Nov. 22-24 at SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio. Sitting three games up on ninth-place Buffalo and EMU, NIU can clinch Friday with a UB loss Thursday night in Akron and an EMU loss Friday against Western Michigan. If that scenario does not pan out, the Huskies can guarantee a spot in the conference tournament Saturday with several possibilities. For a complete breakdown of the MAC Tournament picture and NIU’s clinching scenarios, see page 4.
With the regular season nearing the end, four different Huskies find themselves among the conference’s statistical leaders. Junior Mackenzie Roddy ranks fifth in kills with 3.44 spikes/set, while Alexis Gonzalez is seventh in assists at 9.15 per set and Sarah Angelos is 10th in hitting percentage at .292. On defense, Justine Schepler ranks ninth with 4.36 digs/set.
A New Leader
Friday’s match against Central Michigan will mark an important milestone in Sarah Angelos’ career. When she takes the floor for the first set against the Chippewas, the senior from Waukegan, Ill., will officially become NIU’s career leader in sets played with 495, passing Mary Kurisch. She will also take over sole possession of eighth place in career matches played with 133. In addition, Angelos is second in career attack percentage (.325) and 15th in kills (1,184). On defense, she is tied for 13th in total blocks (311), 13th in block solos (65) and 15th in block assists (246).
Thursday’s 3-1 victory over Western Michigan marked the first time that the Huskies have hosted a nationally-televised match inside Victor E. Court. Since 2011, the Huskies have appeared on ESPN3 four times and have an opportunity for a fifth if they can advance to the MAC Tournament title match.
After hosting Ohio and Kent State this past weekend, the Huskies have now played 17 home matches this season. That ranks them first in the nation for most home matches among all 333 NCAA Division I schools. By the end of the season NIU will have hosted 19 matches in Victor E. Court, tying them with Arizona for the most in the country. In fact, this weekend’s road trip to Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan will only be the fifth weekend out of 12 total that the Huskies will not be in DeKalb during the regular season.
Home, Sweet Home
Speaking of home matches, Victor E. Court has been a rather friendly place for the Huskies in the past and this year is no different. Including last Saturday’s 3-0 sweep of Kent State, NIU boasts a 12-5 mark on their home floor this year and a 46-15 mark - a .754 winning percentage - in DeKalb since the start of the 2010 season. The Huskies have not lost at home to a team ranked outside of the RPI Top 100 since Oct. 26, 2012, when they lost a 3-1 decision to Eastern Michigan.
In his 12th season as NIU head coach, Ray Gooden is now the longest-tenured coach in NIU Volleyball history. A three-time MAC Coach of the Year, Gooden has led the Huskies to three consecutive 20-win seasons and has guided the team to the last three MAC Tournament title matches. The program’s second all-time wins leader owns a 220-162 record at NIU, including a 109-82 mark in MAC play and an impressive 133-63 tally at home. Additionally, Gooden has coached 25 All-MAC, 19 Academic All-MAC, six MAC All-Freshman and five MAC Player of the Year selections, along with the only seven All-American selections in program history. Six players have also reached the 1,000-kill plateau under Gooden.
Northern Illinois closes out the regular season at home next weekend. The Huskies play host to MAC West leader Ball State Friday night, then take on Toledo Saturday for Senior Night. Both matches start at 6 p.m. in Victor E. Court.
The Last Meeting
October 5, 2013
Huskies Knock Off Chippewas, 3-1
Behind a boisterous home crowd, the Northern Illinois volleyball team completed a 2-0 weekend Saturday at Victor E. Court with a 3-1 win over the Central Michigan Chippewas.
The Last Meeting
October 4, 2013
Northern Illinois Downs Eastern Michigan, 3-1
Playing on their home court for the first time in the conference season, the Northern Illinois volleyball team got back in the win column Friday night in Victor E. Court with a 3-1 victory over the Eastern Michigan Eagles.