Huskies Cap Regular Season with Ball State, Toledo

GO HUSKIES Justine Schepler will be one of four seniors honored prior to Saturday night's match against Toledo
Justine Schepler will be one of four seniors honored prior to Saturday night's match against Toledo

Nov. 14, 2013

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DeKALB, Ill. – The Northern Illinois University volleyball team closes the book on the 2013 regular season this weekend when they host Ball State and Toledo in a pair of crucial MAC West matches.
The Huskies start Friday with a 6 p.m. match against BSU, then finish Saturday against UT at 6 p.m. for Senior Night.
“The biggest thing for us is to finish our season strong at home,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “The rest of the stuff falls into place after that. It’s always our mission to defend home and that’s what we want to do against two of the best teams in the MAC.”
NIU clinched a spot in the Mid-American Conference Tournament last weekend with wins on the road at Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan. The two victories also kept the Huskies in the hunt for the MAC West title, as they can clinch a share of the division crown this weekend with two wins and a loss by Toledo Friday night at Western Michigan.
However, earning two wins will be easier said than done. BSU comes into Friday’s match with a 22-7 overall record and a 10-4 MAC mark, but are on a two-match losing streak after taking losses against Toledo and Akron this past weekend. However, the Cardinals can still win the MAC West outright with two wins this weekend coupled with a pair of UT losses.
Meanwhile, the Rockets hold an 18-10 overall ledger and an 11-3 conference record to lead the MAC West. They enter the weekend on a seven-match winning streak and have gone 11-2 since the start of October. Similarly, UT can clinch the division outright this weekend, but control their own destiny as they only need two wins.
Saturday’s match will also be the final home contest for NIU seniors, as Sarah Angelos, Tori Halbur, Justine Schepler and Kayla Zeno will be honored prior to the contest. Together, the group has helped the Huskies accumulate an overall record of 93-41 and 44-18 in conference play since 2010, along with advancing to each of the last three MAC Tournament championship matches.
“The good thing for us is that Senior Night doesn’t mean an ending to things,” Gooden said. “It is the last home match and those guys will have memories of putting a lot of sweat and time in this gym and we’re thankful for that. The good thing is that we’re able to continue playing and we have another match.”
“It is a time to thank the seniors for all the time that they’ve given us. They’re all four-year kids and it is nice to have them go through it and give us significant contributions over their time here.”
Scouting Ball State
Ball State currently holds a 22-7 overall record and a 10-4 mark in the conference. After leading the MAC West Division for most of the conference season, the Cardinals fell back to second with a 3-2 loss against Toledo and a surprising 3-1 defeat at Akron. Sophomore outside hitter Alex Fuelling leads BSU and ranks third in the conference with 3.78 kills/set, while fellow sophomore Hayley Benson paces the MAC with a .358 attack percentage and has 2.41 kills/set. Additionally, Mindy Marx (2.66) and Mackenzie Kitchel (2.35) each average two or more spikes per set. On defense, senior libero Catie Fredrich leads the team and is fifth in the MAC with 4.77 digs/set. In the all-time series, the Huskies have a 29-28 edge, but it was the Cardinals who claimed a 3-0 sweep earlier this season in Muncie.
Scouting Toledo
Toledo enters the weekend with an 18-10 mark overall and an 11-3 MAC record to lead the MAC West. The Rockets are in the midst of a seven-match winning streak after topping Ball State and Buffalo last weekend by identical 3-2 scores. Rocket senior Lauren Rafdal leads the conference with 4.00 kills/set and fellow senior Dakota Harkins is fifth in the MAC with a .339 attack percentage. Setter Adria Pryor sits third in the conference with 10.69 assists/set. Meanwhile, the UT defense is headlined by freshman Ellen Hays - who is seventh in the MAC with 4.56 digs/set - and Harkins with 1.02 blocks/set. NIU holds a comfortable 35-10 lead in the all-time series with the Rockets. However, it was UT who took a tight 3-2 last month in Toledo.
Punching Their Ticket
With their 3-0 win at Central Michigan and an Eastern Michigan loss on Friday, the Huskies officially clinched a spot in next weekend’s Mid-American Conference Tournament. It marks the 10th consecutive season in which NIU has advanced to the conference tournament. The Huskies will also be looking to advance to their fourth-straight MAC Tournament title match. As far as opponents are concerned, NIU will not know who they face until after Saturday’s matches, as the Huskies can finish anywhere between the second and sixth seed in the tournament.
How the (MAC) West Was Won
Following a series of events that saw Ball State lose two matches and Toledo, NIU and Western Michigan each go 2-0, the Huskies are still in position to clinch a share of the division title this weekend. In order for that to happen, NIU would need to defeat Ball State and have WMU defeat Toledo Friday night. The Huskies would then need to beat the Rockets Saturday night at home. If this scenario plays out, NIU would be one of three teams the share the West crown.
Chart Topper
During Friday night’s 3-0 win against Central Michigan, senior Sarah Angelos became the school’s all-time leader in sets played, eclipsing Mary Kurisch’s previous career best of 494. Angelos is also the NCAA’s active career leader in sets played among Division I athletes with 501 sets played. Angelos
Michigan Mastery
By defeating Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan last weekend, the Huskies finished the regular season with a perfect 7-0 record against schools from the state of Michigan. NIU swept the head-to-head meetings with CMU, EMU and Western Michigan, in addition to sweeping Oakland on Sept. 21.
Home Is Where the Wins Are
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.
Speaking of home matches, the Huskies have 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.
Gooden Plenty
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 222-162 record at NIU, including a 111-82 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.
Up Next...
Northern Illinois heads into the postseason next weekend when they take part in the Mid-American Conference Tournament in Geneva, Ohio. The Huskies’ first round opponent will be determined after Saturday’s matches.

The Last Meeting
Northern Illinois0
Ball State3
October 12, 2013
Muncie, Ind.
Ball State Sweeps Northern Illinois, 3-0
The Northern Illinois University volleyball team suffered their second defeat in as many night Saturday at Worthen Arena, as they fell to the Ball State Cardinals, 3-0.

The Last Meeting
Northern Illinois2
October 11, 2013
Toledo, Ohio
Rockets Ground Huskies in 3-2 Loss
The Northern Illinois University volleyball team suffered a tough loss on the road Friday night at Savage Arena, as Toledo came from behind to take a 3-2 win from the Huskies.



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