After dropping the first set, NIU (12-10, 4-4 MAC) caught fire with 44 kills and a .306 attack percentage in the next three sets, while limiting UA (6-13, 0-8 MAC) to a .135 hitting average. The victory also extended the Huskies’ winning streak over the Zips to 11 matches.
“It was great to end a tough road trip on a positive note,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “We’ve been working hard on playing a more consistent brand of volleyball and we’re getting closer. It was nice to see the team close it out in four.”
NIU got off to a rough start against the Zips that put them in a big hole early.
After falling behind 3-1, the Huskies got kills from Sarah Angelos and Jenna Radtke to knot things at 3-3. Yet, that gave way to a 7-0 UA run to give the Zips a commanding 10-3 advantage. NIU was able to battle back to within four at 14-10, but UA kept the Huskies at bay and even added a 4-0 run for good measure to take a 25-15 first set win.
Despite allowing the homestanding Zips to build some early momentum on their home court, NIU quickly squashed that in the second set. Ignited by a kill and back-to-back service aces from Radtke, the Huskies moved out to a 6-1 lead. Once the Zips got back to within 9-6, NIU closed the door on UA with an impressive 8-0 run that included two kills from T’ara Austin and two blocks from Radtke, allowing the Huskies to hold a comfortable 17-6 lead. From there, NIU was able to coast to a 25-16 second set win.
Much like the first set, the Huskies allowed Akron to build an early 4-1 lead in the third set.
However, NIU was able to keep the Zips within striking distance and, with the score at 9-6 Akron, used a 5-0 run to slide in front, 11-9, courtesy of kills from Radtke and MacKenzie Roddy. Unlike the opposition, the Huskies were able to let their slim lead hold. Once the Zips battled back to within 15-14, Roddy, Angelos, Austin and the Huskies closed the door on Akron with a 5-0 run for a 20-14 advantage and an eventualy 25-19 set win.
NIU and UA went back-and-forth several points into the fourth set, resulting in a 14-14 stalemate after neither side could build a lead of more than two points.
The Huskies, though, stopped the Zips in their tracks with back-to-back blocks from Alexis Gonzalez and Radtke, followed by a Gonzalez ace to give NIU a well-timed 3-0 run and a 17-14 edge. UA got back to within one point at 19-18, but the Huskies outlasted the home team down the stretch and emerged with a match-clinching 25-23 fourth set win.
Roddy paced the NIU offense with 14 kills, while Angelos notched 12 and Mary Grace Kelly got 11. On defense, Radtke got five blocks and Angelos had four as part of NIU’s 12 team blocks in the match. Nine different Huskies earned a dig in the match.
The Huskies return to the friendly confines of Victor E. Court this week when they host Ohio and Kent State. NIU takes on the Bobcats Friday at 7 p.m., then battles the Golden Flashes Saturday night in the annual Pink Match and Alumni Night.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.