Northern Illinois University vs. University of Akron / at Muncie,
IN / Worthen Arena / Mid-American Conference Tournament / Quarterfinals
/ Friday / November 21, 2003
(#3-SEED) Akron defeats (#6-SEED) Northern Illinois 3-2 (30-25,
25-30, 30-27, 15-30, 15-11)
Huskie Volleyball Season Comes To An End In MAC Quarterfinals
With Hearbreaking 3-2 Loss To Akron
For the second straight season, the Northern Illinois University
women's volleyball team saw its season come to an end with a five-game
loss. This time around, the sixth-seeded Huskies fell to No. 3 University
of Akron in the quarterfinals of the Mid-American Conference Tournament
at Ball State University's Worthen Arena Friday (Nov. 21).
With the loss, NIU finishes 2003 at 20-11 overall. Akron moves onto
the MAC semifinals to take on the number seven seed---Marshall University---who
knocked off West Division champion and number-two seed Central Michigan
University in the first quarterfinal match of the day.
Things looked good for the Huskies at the end of four games. NIU
used three of their nine total game-four blocks to storm out of
the gates and take a 9-3 lead. Megan Markowski (Glen Ellyn / Wheaton
St. Francis) took the serve after a Brooke Dodson (St. Charles)
kill made it 13-8, and served seven points in a row to blow the
game open. The junior capped the run off with an ace to give the
Huskies a comfortable 12-point advantage. It only got better for
Northern Illinois from there as the Huskies kept piling it on, closing
out a 30-15 triumph with Tera Lobdell's (Plymouth, MN / Robbinsdale
Armstrong) fourth kill of the game, and forcing the fifth and deciding
"We dominated that game," NIU head coach Ray Gooden said.
"It was great---probably the most dominant performance we've
had in a single game all year."
The teams traded shots to the halfway point of game five with the
Zips holding a slim 8-6 lead after a Sandy Lewis kill. Attack errors
began the NIU unraveling from there as a Kate McCullagh (Woodstock)
miscue paired with another UA put-away to put the Huskies in a 10-6
hole. NIU closed that margin back down to two three more times---the
last at 13-11 on an Akron service error. Dodson watched two of her
attacks sail wide, however, to give the Zips the last two points
they need to close out the 15-11 win.
"Akron has been doing this all year," Gooden noted, citing
the eight five-game matches UA has played during MAC play this season.
"They won a couple points at the right time, and unfortunately,
the ball didn't bounce our way like it did in the fourth game."
Dodson did finish the night with 16 kills and 16 digs in her final
collegiate appearance while Lobdell did a little bit of everything
---including setting a new Northern Illinois record for kills in
a season at 492, eclipsing Tenisha Wilkins' old mark of 476 set
back in 2000. The junior closed out her night with 18 kills, eight
digs, and nine total blocks that resulted in 22.5 points.
"Tera is developing throughout her career here," Gooden
explained. "In order for us to be successful, she was going
to have to be a high-point scorer this year. She really worked on
her blocking and defense, and has been that player, putting up 20
points a night for us."
Freshman libero Gina Guide (Orland Park / Sandburg) and sophomore
middle blocker Corinne Walsh (Evergreen Park) etched their names
into the Huskie record book as well. Guide collected 22 digs to
move into third place on the all-time NIU listing for total digs
in a season while Walsh assisted on seven more blocks to earn the
seventh spot on the single-season block assist chart.
McCullagh tied a MAC Tournament record with 10 block assists to
lead a Huskie defense that totaled 18 blocks on the night---the
fourth-most ever in a single match at the league summit. The freshman
also added 14 kills at a .194 clip. Markowski chipped in with six
of those blocks on the defensive side of the ball and added 12 kills
while hitting .241 to finish a double-double of her own.
Akron used solid defense at the net to create enough early chances
to start the night and take a 12-7 lead in game one. NIU did not
help itself, committing a multitude of attack errors to dig themselves
even deeper into the hole, allowing the Zips to extend their lead
as high as eight (23-15, 24-16). The Huskies closed the gap back
down to five on six different occasions, and a block by Lobdell
and McCullagh got NIU to 29-25 before UA finally closed the contest
out. Setter Lyndsay Schmiedel won a joust at the net with Lobdell
to give the Zips a five-point win.
McCullagh took over the middle in game two to lead NIU to a 30-25
victory of its own. The freshman collected two of her game-high
five kills and teamed up with Corinne Walsh (Evergreen Park) on
a block to help turn an early two-point deficit into a 14-12 Huskie
lead. Lobdell's third kill of the night not only extended the advantage
to 18-15, but also gave her 477 put-aways on the season, breaking
the all-time Northern Illinois record for kills in a single season
set by current student assistant coach Tenisha Wilkins in 2000.
The Zips battled back to within one three times, but could not regain
the lead as back-to-back kills from Lobdell combined with a Zip
attack error and NIU's fifth block of the stanza to push the cushion
to five at 28-23. Markowski finished UA off with two kills over
the final three points to seal the win.
Game three was a tale of two halves as the two teams to score nine
consecutive points with the kill--- including three straight from
Lobdell who finished with eight in the third stanza alone---to battle
to a 6-6 stalemate. Things got a bit sloppy from there, as errors
plagued both sides until Akron was able to string three points together
for an 18-14 lead.
Back-to-back kills by Dodson got the Huskies within two at 24-22
and a McCullagh put-away did the same at 26-24. NIU could not avoid
the costly mistake when it mattered, however, as Dodson notched
another successful swing to close the gap to one at 26-25, but consecutive
Zip tips reestablished the three-point cushion at 28-25 and allowed
Akron to take a one-game lead with a 30-27 victory.
-30- --Copy by Brian Kedzior