The Opening Serve
The No. 4 seed Huskies kick-off the MAC Tournament in Toledo’s SeaGate Centre with the first match of the second round against No. 5 Eastern Michigan on Friday at 10 a.m. The victor of the match will go on to play the winner of Friday’s 3:30 p.m. contest between No. 1 Ball State and No. 8 Toledo on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in the quarterfinals.
The Huskies head into the tournament having won 11 of their last 15 contest, including a sweep of EMU last Friday at home, which gave NIU an important first round bye for the second straight year. In four neutral site matches this season, the Huskies are undefeated and have three invitational championships to show for it. NIU’s 25 wins so far are the most the program has had since 1998 and the 11-5 MAC record is its best since 2006.
Eastern Michigan enters Toledo after fending off No. 12 Bowling Green in three sets Tuesday night at home in the first round of the tournament. The Eagles have won seven of their last 11 matches and own a 6-3 mark in neutral site games this year.
The All-Time Series
NIU holds a 25-17 advantage in the all-time series against EMU and has won each of the last five meetings. The Huskies have dropped just one set to the Eagles in two wins this season.
Last Meeting Against The Eagles
For the second season in a row, the Northern Illinois volleyball team earned a bye in the first round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament. The Huskies did so in sweet fashion with a sweep of Eastern Michigan (25-23, 26-24, 25-22) on Friday, Nov. 12, 2010 at NIU Convocation Center's Victor E. Court.
Hitting .307 as a team, NIU racked up 50 kills en route to its 15th three-set victory of the season and sixth consecutive win at home. The Huskies moved to 14-2 at "The Dog House." More importantly, NIU improved to 11-4 in the MAC and 25-5 overall, a win total that hasn't been achieved since 1998.
In getting their fifth straight triumph against the Eagles, who entered the match tied for second in the MAC West Division along with NIU and Western Michigan, the Huskies had to circumnavigate two sizeable deficits in the final two sets.
Trailing 17-12 in the second set, the Huskies stormed back with an 8-3 run, tying the score with help from a pair of putaways by Meghan Romo. From there, the teams exchanged points and needed extra to decide the set. A blast off the right hand of Lauren Wicinski set up NIU's second attempt at set point, and NIU capitalized. Allison McGlaughlin delivered a roll shot that went off the EMU block and rolled along the top of the net, falling far away from any Eagle player.
NIU overcame a 10-6 deficit in the third set as McGlaughlin tallied a kill and an ace on back-to-back plays to fuel a 5-1 set-tying spurt. Then, with the score tied at 12-12, the Huskies took the lead for good on a Wicinski kill.
Wicinski led the Huskies with a phenomenal performance, registering team-highs of 19 kills and 16 digs for her 13th double-double. The nation's top freshman in points, kills and aces also hit a precise .455 to go along with one ace and two blocks to total over 20 points for the 16th occasion with 21.5.
McGlaughlin and Mary Kurisch had stellar performances, as well. McGlaughlin netted 11 kills, while Kurisch turned in seven with a .357 attack percentage.
Maddie Hughes continued her outstanding play by digging up 14 balls to help hold EMU to a .246 attack percentage.
With an 11-0 run to start the season and a 23-2 record through Oct. 28, NIU established its best start in program history and longest winning streak since 2001. In that stretch, the Huskies claimed first place at three tournaments (NIU Invitational, UIC Invitational, Elon Classic) over the course of the first three weekends. Of the 37 sets during the streak, NIU was victorious in 33, winning eight three-set matches, two four-setters, and one five-setter. Statistically, the Huskies held an edge in all 11 matches over their foes in hitting percentage (.297-.160), kills (533-371), digs (531-423), and aces (93-24).
NIU’s 14-1 non-conference run also marked the best pre-conference play stretch in school history.
The 3-0 Sept. 14 loss to undefeated Wisconsin ended NIU’s 11-0 run in front of a sold out Victor E. Court crowd of 954, with some being standing-room-only. That number set a new attendance record at Victor E. Court and was the first time it had been sold out in its nine-year history.
With an average attendance of 431 per match, the Huskies broke the high mark for attendance at Victor E. Court. The previous best was last season’s 381 average, which was bettered by an average of 50 fans per match in 2010.
Huskies Help Fight Breast Cancer
In the annual October Pink Match during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Huskies helped Colleges Against Cancer (CAC) reach a donation level that had never before been achieved at an NIU event. While giving away pink Huskie t-shirts on October 16, NIU and CAC gathered over $1,500 in donations. The Huskies then went on to sweep Buffalo as shades of pink were present throughout the crowd and player’s hair ties and shoe laces.
Big Ten Breakthrough
Just five days after falling to the Big Ten’s Badgers, NIU swept Iowa on Sept. 19 to give Gooden his first triumph over a Big Ten team, and the program’s first such win since 2001.
All-Tournament, All The Time
In winning three straight tournaments in as many weekends to kick off the 2010 campaign, several Huskies have taken home all-tournament honors. At the NIU Invitational, senior libero Maddie Hughes (St. Charles, Ill./North), sophomore middle blocker Mary Kurisch (LaCrosse, Wis./West Salem), and freshman outside hitter Lauren Wicinski (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) were honored. Wicinski then took the MVP of the UIC Invitational as Hughes was again recognized for her outstanding play. At the Elon Classic from September 10-11, Hoffman claimed the MVP, while Kurisch and Wicinski garnered all-tournament nods once again.
Living Up To The Hype: The Wiz Kid
The first high school All-American to join the NIU volleyball program and daughter of two former Huskie student-athletes has lived up to the hype thus far. In her first weekend of collegiate competition, Wicinski took home the Mid-American Conference West Division Offensive Player of the Week award on August 30. She then won the award again on September 20, October 4, October 11 and November 15, giving her the award in every month of the regular season. She has also made three all-tournament teams, including being named MVP of the UIC Invitational. As of November 14, she leads the MAC in points (5.65/set), kills (4.78/set), and aces (0.58/set). Additionally, as of November 14, she ranks fifth in nation in points, seventh in kills and eighth in aces, leading all freshmen in all three categories.
Thus far in her rookie campaign, Wicinski has set the NIU freshman record for points (656), kills (556) and aces (67) in a season. In the program’s single season record book, her ace and kill totals rank third and fourth, respectively.
Wicinski’s mother, Gina (Graf), was an impact outside hitter for the NIU volleyball team from 1983-87 and ranks in the program’s top 15 for career aces (165, fourth), kills (1,328, sixth), points (1,641.5, seventh), solo blocks (66, 11th), and digs (1,019, 12th). Her father, Rob, was a linebacker on the Huskie football team from 1981-85 and has a ring on his finger from NIU’s 1983 California Bowl win.
Wiz Just Adding To Her MAC P.O.W. Record
In just a matter of seven weeks, Wicinski has won four MAC West Division Offensive Player of the Week accolades. After claiming the honor for the third time last week, no freshman had ever won the award twice in a season at NIU and no Huskie had ever taken home the honor three times in a career. With her fourth, became the fourth Huskie to garner the award in consecutive weeks.
In her initial weekend as a Huskie, Wicinski took home the award after she led the team with 86.5 points (5.77/set), 63 kills (4.20/set), and a whopping 18 aces (1.20/set) as she helped the Huskies go 4-0 to win the NIU Invitational, earning an all-tournament selection. She also hit .274, with four assists, eight blocks, 34 digs (2.27/set), had only two errors in 55 reception attempts, and notched two double-doubles. In a sweep of Chicago State, she hit .500 with nine kills, six aces, and three blocks for 17.5 points. In a four-set win over Oakland, she had 17 kills, 14 digs, two aces, and one block for 19.5 points. In a sweep of South Dakota, she totaled 15 kills with a .345 attack percentage, five aces, and two blocks for 21.5 points. In a five-set win over 2009 NCAA Tournament qualifier College of Charleston, she tallied 22 kills, 15 digs, five aces, and two blocks for 28 points.
Three weekends later, Wicinski netted the accolade again as she registered a team-high 42 kills (4.67/set) to lead NIU to a 2-1 record during the week. She tallied double-figure kills in all three matches and has done so in 13 straight, while leading the team in points with 45.5 (5.06/set). Against Wisconsin, she put up 15 kills and a .294 attack percentage. In a 3-0 win over Youngstown State, she notched 15 kills and a .310 attack percentage. With 12 kills and an ace in a 3-0 win over Iowa, she led the Huskies to their first win over a Big Ten opponent since 2001.
Two weekends after that, Wicinski completed the record-trifecta, sharing the award with Eastern Michigan's Rachel Iaquaniello. Wicinski totaled a team-best 47 kills (4.70/set) and .321 attack percentage, while also adding 18 digs (1.80/set), two aces, and four blocks for 52 points (5.20/set). She notched a season-high 29 kills at home against Western Michigan with a .309 hitting percentage, while also adding 12 digs, three blocks and an ace for her eighth double-double. She hit .342 with 19 kills, one block and an ace versus Miami (Ohio).
A weekend later, Wicinski came up huge in two road wins for Northern Illinois, totaling 59 points (6.56/set), 52 kills (5.78/set), and five aces (0.56/set). She put up 28.5 points, 25 kills, and two aces in a five-set win over preseason MAC West favorite Central Michigan. She then did even better by tallying 30.5 points, 27 kills, and three aces in a four-set win against then-MAC West first place Eastern Michigan, including ending the match with four kills in a row for the Huskies.
To bookend the regular season, Wicinski won the honor for the fifth time on Nov. 15. She produced one of her best weekends all year in an important final pair of MAC regular season matches as she led the Huskies to a MAC first round bye with 40 kills (5.00/set) and a .403 attack percentage along with six aces (0.75/set). Wicinski delivered 19 kills with a .455 attack percentage and an ace in a three-set win at home over Eastern Michigan (Nov. 12). The victory clinched a first round bye for the Huskies as she hit above .400 for the sixth time this season and added 16 digs for her 13th double-double. With 21 kills and a .359 hitting percentage against Central Michigan (Nov. 13), Wicinski hit over .350 in back-to-back contests for the third time of the season. She also added five aces against CMU, marking the fifth team she had served up five or more aces in a match. Wicinski's proficient outputs marked her 30th straight game with 10-plus kills and 31st in a row with double figure points.
Hughes Grabs Her Fourth
Senior libero Maddie Hughes (St. Charles, Ill./North) took home her fourth career MAC Defensive Player of the Week award for her remarkable performance during the week of Nov. 1-7. The conference started handing out the award last season and the reigning MAC Defensive Player of the Year earned the first ever honor. She added her first of the 2010 season as she totaled 48 digs in eight sets (6.00/set) and mishandled only one serve in 26 attempts.
In a heartbreaking five-set loss at Western Michigan (Nov. 4), Hughes tallied a career-high-tying 34 digs and had 13 perfect serve receptions, marking the third time this season that she has had 30 or more digs. The 2009 second team All-MAC selection then ended the week with 14 digs and one reception error in 13 tries in a 3-0 home win over Bowling Green (Nov. 6). The back-to-back double digit dig efforts marked the 22nd and 23rd times she has done so this season.
Senior Night--A.K.A. Maddie Hughes Night
Maddie Hughes, the lone senior of the 2010 roster, was honored prior to first serve on Saturday, Nov. 13, for her four years of excellence and dedication to the NIU volleyball program. Hughes is the Huskies’ first ever MAC Defensive Player of the Year honoree (2009), also earning a 2009 second team All-MAC selection and four MAC West Defensive Player of the Week accolades. One of the best back row players in the history of the MAC, Hughes ranks second all-time at NIU in digs (2,148) and third in aces (68). Hughes’ dig total is the fifth highest in MAC history.
The underclassmen quadruplet of sophomore middle blocker Mary Kurisch (LaCrosse, Wis./West Salem), sophomore outside hitter Meghan Romo (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso), Wicinski and freshman middle blocker Sarah Angelos (Waukegan, Ill./Waukegan) have combined to make up over 70 percent of NIU’s total kills (76%), blocks (81%), and points (73%). Kurisch and Wicinski alone make up 44 percent of NIU’s total aces.
She’s Just The 16th
On October 29th, junior outside hitter Allison McGlaughlin became the 16th Huskie to reach the 1,000-kill plateau, doing so at Toledo. With 1,055 career kills, McGlaughlin is within 15 of moving into 15th place on the all-time list at NIU.
The Victor E. Court Advantage
The Huskies are 89-51 at Victor E. Court and 8-1 in home and season openers since 2002. In those nine seasons, NIU has finished with a home record above .500 nine times. In that same span, Northern Illinois also owns a 42-31 home advantage over MAC foes. The Huskies were 14-3 at home this season.
They Can Play Away From Home, Too
The Huskies won each of their first seven road matches over the course of 50 days. The feat had not been accomplished by NIU since 1992. Overall, the Huskies are 7-3 away from Victor E. Court.
NIU is 5-3 in five-setters thus far. During their recent nine-match winning streak (Sept. 25-Oct.23), the Huskies put together three five-set wins in a row, something that hadn’t been done by NIU since 2006.
Since 2002, NIU is 30-14 against intrastate opponents. The Huskies are 4-0 against Illinois opponents this season.
NCAA Leaders (As of November 14)
NIU ranks third in the nation in wins (25), 25th in winning percentage (.806), aces (1.63/set) and 25th in hitting percentage (.261), 35 in kills (13.94/set), and 39th in assists (13.02/set).
In addition to Wicinski’s national presence, the Huskies feature four other players high in the national rankings. Junior setter Kristin Hoffman (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) ranks 17th in assists (11.44/set). Angelos ranks 61st in hitting percentage (.350), while Kurisch ranks 114th (.329). Hughes stands 98th in digs (4.51/set).
MAC Leaders (As of November 14)
NIU ranks at the top of the MAC in hitting percentage and aces. The Huskies also rank second in kills and assists, sixth in digs (14.60/set), eighth in opponent hitting percentage (.197), and 10th in blocks (1.64/set).
On top of Wicinski’s league-leading status, Angelos, Hoffman, Kurisch, and Hughes all rank in the league’s top 10 in several statistical categories as well. Angelos ranks third in hitting percentage, while Kurisch is seventh and ninth in blocks (0.86/set), too. Hoffman ranks second in assists. Hughes ranks fourth in digs.
Hoffman has piled up over 30 assists and at least one dig in each of the last 18 matches, including a career-best 71 helpers November 4 at Western Michigan. She also has added one or more kills in her last three.
Angelos, Kurisch and Wicinski have each notched at least one block in three matches in a row. Kurisch has hit over .350 in her last four.
Wicinski has registered double-figures in points in every match. She has also had 30 straight matches with double-figure kills. She also has served up an ace in four straight games.
Hughes has had double figure digs in each of her last four matches.
With the stellar start to the 2010 campaign, ninth-year head coach Ray Gooden moved into second place on the program’s all-time win list after claiming first place at the NIU Invitational with a win over College of Charleston on Aug. 28. His career record now stands at 154-127. Additionally, the 2006 Mid-American Conference Co-Coach of the Year has a 2006 MAC West Division regular season championship under his belt, along with NIU’s first All-American selection (Kate McCullagh, 2006), two MAC Player of the Year selections (Kate McCullagh in 2006, Maddie Hughes in 2009), 14 All-MAC selections, four MAC All-Freshman selections, and nine Academic All-MAC selections.
A Class Above
The NIU volleyball team has held the highest grade-point average of all Huskie sports for each of the last two years and in five of the last six semesters. In the latest academic progress report, the Huskies score of 991 ranks in the top 20 percent of all volleyball teams in the country. With nine Academic All-MAC honorees since 2004, the Huskies have taken home back-to-back American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Team Academic awards for the first time in school history. Additionally, since 2002, the program has had 26 Victory Scholars (3.50+ GPA) and 32 Huskie Scholars (3.00-3.49 GPA).
Kristin Hoffman and junior classmate Allison McGlaughlin (Morton, Ill./Morton) were named to the ESPN/College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-District 5 First Team on Nov. 4. The double achievement marked the first time that the program has had two Academic All-District honorees in the same season, let alone a pair of first team selections. The Huskies are only one of five teams in the nation that can make that claim, and one of two in the Mid-American Conference, as Buffalo also accomplished the rare feat. The only other team in the MAC to be represented on the scholarly list was Western Michigan.
Hoffman, a 2009 Academic All-MAC selection, is a history major and sports a near-perfect 3.95 grade point average, while being an NIU Victory Scholar (3.5 GPA or better) every semester as a Huskie.
McGlaughlin measures up similarly as she was also a 2009 Academic All-MAC honoree, has a 3.95 GPA, and has been a Victory Scholar each semester. The only difference is she is an elementary education major.