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.
NIU (11-9, 3-3 MAC) was unable to get any traction on offense the entire night, as they were limited to a .137 hitting percentage over three sets. Conversely, BSU’s (17-4, 5-1 MAC) diverse attack allowed them to accumulate a .287 hitting percentage.
“They’re offense put us in a lot of pressure because they were a little faster than we were,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “We weren’t able to put anything together to put them under pressure.
Facing a tough environment during BSU’s homecoming, the Huskies hung tough with the Cardinals early with both sides splitting the first six points of the first set. However, BSU broke through with an 8-2 run to claim an 11-5 advantage. The Huskies would claw back into the set with a 7-2 rally courtesy of some Cardinal errors, along with some kills from Lauren Zielinski, Jenna Radtke and MacKenzie Roddy, that got them within 14-12. The Cardinals, though, proved to be bad hosts, as they closed the set on an 11-3 run to claim an easy 25-15 opening set win.
The Huskies and Cardinals traded blows early in the second set en route to a 9-9 deadlock.
Much like the first set, though, BSU got a well-timed run to seize control, as they used a 4-0 rally to move ahead 13-9. NIU used a Radtke solo block and a Cardinal error to climb back within two at 14-12, but BSU would extend their lead back to 19-14 behind a 5-2 run. The late streak proved to be too much for the Huskies, as the Cardinals would take a 25-17 set two win. Along with the two-sets-to-none deficit, NIU’s offense was held to 15 kills and a .066 attack percentage through the first half.
Unlike the previous two sets, NIU fell behind BSU early in the third, 4-1. After the Cardinals moved ahead 10-6, the Huskies cobbled together a mini 3-0 run from three-straight Roddy spikes to get to within 10-9. That NIU momentum was short-lived, as BSU got a key 4-1 run to push their lead to 14-10. The Cardinal lead grew to 21-13 and, despite a 3-0 Huskie run, NIU would drop the third set, 25-20.
Roddy led the NIU offense with 10 kills in the loss, while Sarah Angelos added nine. On defense, Alexis Gonzalez paced the Huskies with 11 digs from the setter spot, while Radtke tallied NIU’s only two kills of the night.
“With such a young group, we are trying to figure out how we can do things away from home,” Gooden said. “To play for a MAC championship, it has to be on the road. We have to work on that, as well as defending our own place.”
The Huskies continue their road trip this weekend when they go to Buffalo and Akron in cross-divisional play. NIU takes on the Bulls at 6 p.m. Friday and then faces the Zips at 4 p.m. Saturday.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.