VOLLEYBALL--- Northern Illinois University vs. University of Toledo
/ at DeKalb, IL / Victor E. Court / Mid-American Conference Match
/ Friday / November 14, 2003
NORTHERN ILLINOIS defeats TOLEDO 3-1 (26-30, 30-26, 30-24, 30-28)
TAKES CONTROL OF ITS OWN DESTINY WITH 3-1 VICTORY OVER WEST DIVISION
DeKALB, IL--Northern Illinois University bounced back from a dismal
performance in game one to win three games in a row and put itself
in control of its own destiny in terms of seeding for the Mid-American
Conference Tournament with a 3-1 (26-30, 30-26, 30-24, 30-28) win
over the University of Toledo in women's volleyball action at Victor
E. Court Friday (Nov. 14).
With the win and Marshall University's loss at the University at
Buffalo, NIU needs simply to win its final regular season match
against Bowling Green State University Saturday (Nov. 15) to ensure
a home match in the first round of the league summit. The Huskies
currently stand at 7-8 in the MAC to compliment an 18-10 overall
mark. Toledo drops to 10-21 on the year with a 5-11 record in conference
NIU hit just .106 (16 kills-11 errors-47 attempts) in losing a 30-26
decision to open the night. Despite the error-filled play, the Huskies
were actually within one a 18-17 before watching the Rockets pull
away. After extending its advantage to four on three occasions,
UT finally notched its largest lead of the contest at 29-24 after
a Huskie attack error, and had enough breathing room to seal the
Game two saw NIU experience both ends of the spectrum as eight service
errors still hampered one part of the Huskie attack while the Cardinal
and Black only committed three attack errors---a season-low for
one game---to balance the scale a bit. Northern Illinois turned
a 14-13 lead into a 17-13 advantage with a run punctuated by a tandem
block by Brooke Dodson (St. Charles) and Megan Markowski
(Glen Ellyn / Wheaton St. Francis) midway through the contest.
The pair also led the Huskie offensive attack combining to rack
up nine kills at a .562 clip while failing to commit a single error.
Behind the newfound efficiency at the net, NIU as high as four at
27-23 before watching the Rockets claw back in behind two straight
kills and a Rachel Mohler service ace. The Huskies closed it out
from there, however, scoring the last three points of the game behind
a Dodson kill and a pair of Rocket errors to even the match at one
"We weren't adjusting to the pace of the match very well,"
NIU head coach Ray Gooden said. "We finally did that
a little in game two and forced them to make some errors while not
making any of our own. That was big."
Once again, Dodson and Markowski led the way in game three, going
another entire stanza without committing a single attack error while
registering eight more points via the kill. Sophomore Corinne
Walsh (Evergreen Park) joined in this time around, posting an
errorless game of her own while hitting .500 (4-0-8) to headline
Despite the wealth of points at the net, the Huskies found themselves
down 19-15 after UT answered NIU points with uncontested kills time
and time again. Dodson took the serve after a Rocket service error,
however, and ran off a string of four consecutive points to give
NIU its first lead of the game at 20-19. The teams traded points
to 24-23 before Markowski notched five straight points of her own
with the serve to push the cushion to 29-23 and help close out a
Walsh posted another errorless frame in a thrilling game four that
sealed the match. The Evergreen Park native was a perfect three-for-three
in the final stanza with two of those successful swings coming during
a run that turned a 15-13 deficit into a 17-16 Huskie lead. Toledo
bounced back and took control of the net, however, notching a back-to-back
blocks to take a late 24-20 lead.
That's when the momentum changes started as the Huskies fought back
to knot the game at 24-24 on a Markowski kill made possible by a
spectacular Tera Lobdell (Plymouth, MN / Robbinsdale Armstrong)
dig. A Toledo timeout spurred a three-point Rocket run, however,
and UT looked to be on its way to a fifth and deciding game up 27-24.
But, NIU scrapped its way to a 25th point that included players
on both teams flying all over the court and was capped by a vicious
kill by Kate McCullagh (Woodstock) that riled up the crowd
and got the Huskies back into the game.
"Kate's kill was a great boost for our team," Gooden explained.
"That really set the crowd off, and I don't want to say it
was a final dagger or anything, but it was definitely a big boost
NIU ran off the next three points to take the lead back at 28-27,
and despite allowing Toledo to tie the contest up at 28-28, finished
off the match with another McCullagh kill---the 22nd Northern Illinois
kill of the game---and a Rocket attack error.
McCullagh was just one of a trio of Huskie middle blockers who finished
the match hitting .320 or better. Markowski tied with Lobdell for
the team lead in kills with 18 while attacking the net at a .378
clip (18-4-37) and adding seven total blocks on defense. Walsh closed
out her night at a .364 pace (6-2-11) while McCullagh racked up
12 kills while hitting .321 (12-3-28). Besides her team-high mark
in kills, Lobdell also topped the NIU charts with 14 digs to complete
her 17th double-double of the season.
"Our middles did a really good job tonight," Gooden added.
"They were aggressive and that's really good because it allowed
them to score some points even when they were facing multiple blockers."
Northern Illinois' match with Bowling Green now has wide-ranging
MAC Tournament implications with three or four teams in a position
to trade seeds pending the outcomes of their matches Saturday (Nov.
15) night. The contest will also serve as Senior Appreciation Night
at Victor E. Court as the Huskies look to send out Dodson and fellow
senior Amanda Newlin (Rolling Hills Estates, CA / Palos Verdes
Peninsula) out with a victory.
-30- --Copy by Brian Kedzior