Sophomore middle blocker Mary Kurisch paced a well-rounded attack as the undefeated Northern Illinois volleyball team swept Bradley, 3-0, at Victor E. Court Tuesday night. The 25-14, 25-17, 25-15 win improved NIU to 5-0, marking its best start since 1998, as the Huskies wrapped up a perfect five-match home stand to begin the 2010 campaign.
“The best thing about our group is that we are working hard to get better in every opportunity that we get,” said ninth-year head coach Ray Gooden, the second all-time wins leader at NIU (134-121). “I was really proud of the group on how we approached this match tonight. I feel like the work that we’ve been putting in has shown in our results.”
Kurisch’s standout performance included 14 kills and a career-best seven blocks for a career-high 18 points. She also hit .591, committing just one attack error on 22 swings.
“It’s fun to watch Mary continue to develop and improve,” Gooden said. “Each match gives her a little bit more experience, and with that, a little more confidence. She’s developing into a solid middle blocker and attacker.”
Junior setter Kristin Hoffman totaled 36 assists in distributing NIU’s 44 kills, compared to Bradley’s 21.
As a team, the Huskies hit .318, holding the Braves to .077, which is the fourth match this season that the Huskies have held a team under a .150 attack percentage. NIU also had eight aces and no reception errors, marking the third time this season that the Huskies have been perfect in receiving serves.
Northern Illinois set the tone early after Kurisch bounced a ball to give the Huskies a 15-9 advantage in the first set, forcing the Braves to call a timeout. A few moments later, McGlaughlin hammered one down the pipe for a 22-14 lead, and followed it up with an ace. Wicinski then thumped an overpass and teamed with fellow freshman Sarah Angelos on a block to end the set.
The Huskies kept the momentum rolling in the second stanza with a 10-5 lead following an ace from Schepler that forced BU to take a timeout. The break only heated up Schepler, as she aced the Braves three more times in a row, causing another Bradley timeout. The Huskies cruised from there as Wicinski once again helped end a set. The reigning Mid-American Conference West Division Offensive Player of the Week gave NIU its 24th point by bouncing a ball from the left pin and ended it by destroying another overpass.
In the final set, Kurisch capped a 7-1 start with a solo block. Then sophomore Meghan Romo tallied a solo block of her own to put NIU up 12-3, forcing the Braves to call a timeout. Later, Kurisch teamed with Hoffman on another block to put the Huskies up 20-8, and fittingly, Kurisch ended the match with a solo block.
“We had a very positive performance,” said Gooden. “I thought we did a lot of things to not only establish tempo, but to control tempo.”
With the win, the Huskies improved on several records. NIU is now 12-3 all-time against Bradley and 28-14 against Illinois opponents since Gooden took over in 2002. The Huskies also moved to 81-48 at home under Gooden.
On deck for the Huskies is a weekend trip to Chicago for the UIC Invitational. NIU will face Kennesaw State at 5 p.m. Friday. The Huskies will then play two matches on Saturday, starting with a noon contest against Memphis and ending with a 7 p.m. matchup against host Illinois Chicago.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.