Nov. 14, 2011
DeKALB, Ill. - Northern Illinois volleyball's Amber Walker (Juneau, Alaska/Juneau Douglas/Western Oregon) and Lauren Wicinski (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) were named Mid-American Conference West Division Defensive and Offensive Player of the Week, respectively, the league announced Monday.
The dual accomplishment marks the first time in program history that NIU has swept the league's weekly honors. For Walker, it is her first such selection. Meanwhile, Wicinski has now garnered the accolade five times this season and 10 times in her young career, which is already an NIU record. This is the second time this season that she has been involved in an NIU record for the MAC weekly honor. From Sept. 26-Oct. 10, she received the award in three straight weeks, another first in Huskie lore.
With their outstanding efforts, the duo led NIU to a perfect 2-0 record on the road with wins at Western Michigan and Bowling Green to secure the MAC West Division title for the first time since 2006 and MAC regular season title for the first time since 2001.
"This is nice recognition for NIU volleyball and a nice way to end the MAC regular season," said NIU Head Coach Ray Gooden. "Both Amber and Lauren were large factors in helping us lock up the MAC regular season title and No. 1 seed in the tournament. We hope they, and the rest of the team, can keep playing well as we head into the tournament this week.
"Amber had one of her best week's of the season, especially in the Western Michigan match where she outplayed one of the best liberos in the conference. Lauren just continues to terminate balls at a high rate and play solid all-around volleyball."
Walker led the defense with 37 digs (4.11/set) and just one reception error in 46 attempts. In the clinching 3-1 win at WMU, she totaled 25 digs, one more than reigning two-time MAC West Defensive Player of the Week Lena Oliver, and was flawless in 22 serve receptions. In the 3-2 comeback win at Bowling Green, she tallied 12 digs and only one reception error in 24 attempts. She has now had 12 or more digs in seven straight matches and has had double figure digs in 23 of 30 matches.
Wicinski paced the offense with 39 kills (4.33/set) and four aces (0.44/set). At WMU, she came up huge with 23 kills, an ace, and 11 digs. Versus Bowling Green, she spearheaded the 0-2 comeback with 16 kills, three aces, and a career-high seven blocks. With the week's performance, she upped her double-double total to 15. The nation's points and kills leader has had 10 or more kills in all but two of 30 matches, including 22 in a row.
The No. 1-seeded Huskies (25-5, 14-2 MAC) return to action Friday, Nov. 18, at 3:30 PM CT to face No. 8 Bowling Green (19-11, 6-10 MAC) in the quarterfinals of the MAC Tournament at SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio.