Northern Illinois Men's Hoops Prepares For Season-Opener With Eastern Illinois (11/19)



November 18, 2003

Northern Illinois defeats Buffalo 3-0 (30-27, 30-23, 30-23)

No Comeback This Time, Huskies Start Mid-Am Tournament Off On Right Foot With 3-0 Sweep Of Buffalo

DeKALB, IL--Just two weeks after seeing a 2-0 lead disappear to the University at Buffalo in a heartbreaking 3-2 loss, Northern Illinois University jumped ahead again and left no doubt as to the outcome this time around, winning its first-round Mid-American Conference Tournament game 3-0 Tuesday (Nov. 18) at Victor E. Court.

"We were just trying to stay focused and not let anything get in the way of getting this match done," Huskie head coach Ray Gooden explained. "They played a good match, but we were just able to put a couple runs together and that's what it came down to."

With the victory, NIU improves to 20-10 on the year---the school's 18th 20-win season---and moves on to the MAC Quarterfinals. The Huskies square off against the University of Akron Friday (Nov. 21) in a 3:00 p.m. (EST) match at Ball State University's Worthen Arena. Buffalo sees its season come to an end at 11-20.

NIU resorted to the kill to blow game one open early, scoring nine of 12 points during one stretch to turn an 8-8 tie into a 17-11 Huskie lead. Six of those tallies came via the kill including a pair from Megan Markowski (Glen Ellyn / Wheaton St. Francis) and two more from Tera Lobdell (Plymouth, MN / Robbinsdale Armstrong) who finished with game-high totals of six and five kills, respectively.

The lead never dropped lower than three until the Bulls put a late run together to close the gap to 28-26 after stringing together four straight points. Freshman Kate McCullagh (Woodstock) scored on her third kill of the stanza, however, to get the Huskies to 29 and allow them to finish off a 30-27 victory.

Jumping out much quicker in game two, the Huskies staked to a 5-1 lead behind a pair of tandem blocks and a handful of UB errors. NIU led from start to finish, watching its advantage swell as high as eight on a Lobdell service ace at 29-21. Setter Marie Zidek (Evergreen Park / Chicago Heights Marian Catholic) finished off a 30-23 win with her second kill of the game.

As a team, the Huskies racked up 20 total kills for the second straight game---hitting .294 this time around (20 kills-5 errors-51 attempts) to just .128 for the Bulls. NIU dominated both sides of the ball, collecting 19 game-two digs and outblocking the Bulls three to one as well.

"A lot of those kills were from digs in transition," Gooden explained. "We scored some balls inside out and we dug the ball and put ourselves in a good spot to score sometimes too. Marie (Zidek) also did a good job setting the ball tonight."

Another quick start afforded Northern Illinois a big cushion in game three as the Huskies jumped out to another 5-1 lead. Although NIU led game three from wire-to-wire as well, the Bulls made it a bit more interesting this time, closing the gap to one twice (16-15, 20-19).

Eventually, it was NIU's defense at the net that won out, however, as a pair of blocks reestablished a three-point cushion at 23-20 and the Huskies closed out the match with a 30-23 win.

Four Huskies finished the night with 10 kills or more including Markowski who topped the team chart with 13 successful swings at a .270 clip (13-3-37). Lobdell ended up with 12 put-aways and 12 digs for her third straight double-double and 19th of the season. Senior Brooke Dodson (St. Charles) racked up 10 kills and 13 digs in her final match at Victor E. Court while McCullagh rounded out the quartet with 10 kills to go with her seven total blocks.

"That is the whole idea for us to be a good volleyball team," Gooden added. "It's not just going to be one person to do stuff on offense and defense. We have to work real hard to score with blocks and kills as a team."

NIU failed to commit more than seven attack errors in any game on its way to a .275 (56-15-149) mark as a team. The Huskies won the defensive battle as well, accumulating 10.5 blocks to just six for the Bulls while Gina Guide (Orland Park / Sandburg) finished off the trio of Huskies that collected 10 digs or more with a team-high total of 16.

Copy by Brian Kedzior