Nov. 21, 2013
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DeKALB, Ill. – The Northern Illinois University volleyball team kicks off postseason play this weekend when they trek to the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio, for the 2013 Mid-American Conference Tournament.
The fifth-seeded Huskies open the tournament Friday at 1 p.m. CT when they take on the fourth-seeded Bowling Green Falcons. NIU has advanced to the tournament championship match each of the last three seasons, but will be looking to go a step further this year.
“I think the conference tournament is a time where teams hope to be playing their best,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “Everybody must because the field is so competitive this year. There’s no one dominant team. No match will have an upset feel to it. We’ve got a great opportunity against a really good team, but we will have to play our best to be successful.”
Last weekend, the Huskies capped off the regular season with a split against Ball State and Toledo. NIU fell to BSU in a 3-0 sweep on Friday night, only to reverse their fortunes with a 3-0 sweep against UT on Senior Night, which also gave them their third consecutive win in home finales.
Meanwhile, BGSU comes into the tournament with a 14-14 record overall and a 10-6 ledger in conference play. After starting the conference season 5-1, though, the Falcons have only mustered a 5-5 mark since Oct. 18. However, it was the same BGSU squad who defeated NIU in last year’s MAC Tournament final in a 3-2 heartbreaker.
Should NIU win Friday, they will face the winner of top-seeded Ohio and Kent State Saturday at 1:30 p.m. CT. The Huskies defeated KSU, 3-0, on Oct. 26, but lost to the Bobcats on Oct. 25, 3-1. The championship match is scheduled for Sunday at noon CT and will be broadcast live on Time Warner SportsChannel, ESPN3 and Comcast SportsNet Chicago.
Scouting Bowling Green
Bowling Green comes into the MAC Tournament with a 14-14 overall record and a 10-6 MAC mark. Last weekend, the Falcons defeated the Akron Zips, 3-1, before dropping a 3-2 decision to the Buffalo Bulls. BGSU is led on the offensive end by seniors Lindsey Butterfield and Paige Penrod, who account for 3.20 kills/set and 3.00 kills/set to rank seventh and ninth, respectively, in the conference. In addition, Jelena Sunjic (2.85 kills/set) and Danielle Tonyan (2.78 kills/set) each contribute over 2.75 spikes a set. Defensively, middle blocker Kaitlyn Skinner leads the conference with 1.38 blocks/set, while libero Ashley Dunn is sixth in the MAC with 4.69 digs/set. The Huskies lead the all-time series with BGSU, 24-11. However, the Falcons won this season’s lone meeting, 3-0, on Sept. 28 in Bowling Green.
Scouting the Rest of the Field
If the Huskies defeat Bowling Green on Friday, their opponent will be either top-seeded Ohio or eighth-seeded Kent State in a 1:30 p.m. Central semifinal matchup. The Bobcats won the overall MAC title with a 14-2 record and are in the midst of an eight-match winning streak, while the Golden Flashes hold a 6-10 record despite going 2-8 in their last 10 contests. Meanwhile, the other half of the bracket features four teams from the MAC West, led by division co-champions Toledo and Ball State. The Rockets - the number two seed - open the tournament by facing seventh-seeded Eastern Michigan and the third-seeded Cardinals face the six seed in Western Michigan. For a complete look at the tournament bracket, go the page four of the notes.
Roddy Reaches 1,000
Junior outside hitter Mackenzie Roddy became the 21st player in NIU volleyball history to record 1,000 kills Saturday when she connected on a spike in the early moments of the second set against Toledo. The San Bernardino, Calif., native currently has 1,007 spikes to her credit now and is two kills away from reaching 400 for the second consecutive season. Earlier this season, senior Sarah Angelos eclipsed the plateau in September and has since ascended to 14th in the career rankings.
Breakin’ Out the Brooms
While Victor E. Court has provided a great advantage for the Huskies over the last 12 seasons, it has been especially big when NIU hosts Toledo. Saturday’s win gave the Huskies their eighth-straight win over the Rockets in DeKalb. What is even more impressive is that NIU has not lost a single set during that stretch, having swept UT in every one of those matches. The last set the Rockets won in DeKalb was in 2005, when they took a 3-2 win.
Conference Tournament Rematch
For the third consecutive year, NIU will meet Bowling Green in the MAC Tournament. In addition, it also marks the second time in three seasons in which the Huskies and Falcons have gone head-to-head in the first round of the tournament. In 2011, NIU swept BGSU as the tournament’s top seed. Last season, the two schools met in the tournament final. However, the fourth-seeded Huskies came just short of the conference title, as the Falcons came back from a 2-0 deficit to top NIU in five sets.
Senior Night Send-Off
In Saturday’s 3-0 win over Toledo, it was only fitting that each of NIU’s four seniors - Sarah Angelos, Tori Halbur, Justine Schepler and Kayla Zeno - each had one of their best matches of the season. Angelos finished the night with 11 kills, a .391 attack percentage and five blocks, while fellow front row player Halbur added a kill, seven digs and two assists. Additionally, Schepler and Zeno tied for the team lead with 13 digs.
Saturday’s win over Toledo secured the Huskies’ fourth-straight season with double-digit wins in the conference, having notched 11 wins in 2010, 14 in 2011, 10 in 2012 and 10 this season. In addition, it marked the sixth consecutive year in which NIU finished .500 or better in the MAC.
With this weekend’s tournament taking place about an hour east of Cleveland, Ohio, in Geneva’s SPIRE Institute, it will serve as a homecoming of sorts for freshman outside hitter Mary Grace Kelly. Hailing from suburban Strongsville, Kelly attended Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, where she earned all-area honors three times and all-conference laurels twice. This marks the second time she will play near her hometown this season, as the Huskies played at Akron on Oct. 19.
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 223-163 record at NIU, including a 112-83 mark in MAC play and an impressive 134-64 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. Seven players have also reached the 1,000-kill plateau under Gooden, including two this season.
If they win the MAC Tournament this weekend, the Huskies will head to the NCAA Tournament. Dates, times, locations and opponents will be unveiled in the NCAA Selection Show Dec. 1 at 8:30 p.m. on ESPNU.
The Last Meeting
September 28, 2013
Bowling Green, Ohio
Bowling Green Sweeps Huskies, 3-0
In a rematch of last season's Mid-American Conference Tournament championship match, the Northern Illinois volleyball team came out on the short end Saturday night at the Stroh Center with a 3-0 loss to Bowling Green.
The Last Meeting
November 19, 2010
Huskie Volleyball Team Advances to MAC Semifinals
Northern Illinois extended its magical 2010 volleyball season with a hard-fought, five-set win over Eastern Michigan Friday in the quarterfinals of the Mid-American Conference Volleyball Championship at the Seagate Center in Toledo. NIU was playing its first match in the tournament after earning a first round bye.