Undefeated Huskie volleyball team plays tonight against undefeated Wisconsin, former NIU coach

NIU Huskies volleyball teamNIU Invitational? Check. UIC Invitational? Check. Elon Classic? Check. Record? Spotless.

Tonight, something has to give — but only for one of the teams on the floor.

The 11-0 Huskies volleyball squad will look to keep up their best start in program history against the 9-0 Badgers in NIU’s first home match against a Big Ten opponent since 2007.

As NIU opens a season-long, seven-match home stand at 7:30 p.m tonight on Victor E. Court inside the NIU Convocation Center, the two teams have more than just an unblemished record in common. Both feature the top two wins leaders in NIU history.

Wisconsin head coach Pete Waite once fronted the Huskies and will make his first trip back to DeKalb. From 1988-98, Waite led the NIU to six conference championships and four NCAA Tournament appearances, compiling a 266-102 record, which ranks at the top of the program’s all-time wins list. Waite’s counterpart, NIU head coach Ray Gooden, ranks second all-time with a 140-121 mark as a Huskie.

Fans are encouraged to arrive early tonight. NIU students will be admitted free with a valid NIU OneCard. General admission for adults is $5, while children get in for $3.

Huskie volleyball players celebrateNIU returns home after a very successful 6-0 road trip that saw the Huskies pick up their second and third invitational titles of the season.

Over the weekend, NIU defeated Elon (3-1), Liberty (3-0), and Stetson (3-0) to claim the Elon Classic, and continued to dominate its opponents. In winning 33 of 37 sets this season, the Huskies have held an edge in every match over their foes in hitting percentage (.297-.160), kills (533-371), digs (531-423), and aces (93-24). NIU’s longest winning streak since 2001 has seen the Huskies come out victorious in eight three-set matches, two four-set, and one five-set.

Just like the Huskies, Wisconsin heads south after winning its third straight tournament. The Badgers won the Milwaukee Invitational last weekend, defeating Milwaukee (3-1) and a pair of Mid-American Conference foes Central Michigan (3-1) and Toledo (3-1).

“It’s been great,” Gooden said. “It’s nice for us to come to a different part of the country and do some positive things.”

For the 11th time this year, the Huskies held advantages over their opponent in hitting percentage (.250-.147), kills (49-28), and digs (51-36). NIU also topped the Hatters (1-9) in aces (8-1) and blocks (4-2). 

Freshman outside hitter Lauren Wicinski (Geneva, Ill./Geneva) led the Huskies with 13 kills, 12 digs, and an ace for her fifth double-double. For her weekend performance, Wicinski earned her third consecutive all-tournament selection as she totaled team-highs of 44 points (4.40/set) and 38 kills (3.80/set), along with 22 digs (2.20/set) and five aces (0.50/set).

Joining Wicinski on the all-tournament team for the second occasion this season was Mary Kurisch, who tallied eight kills and a .467 hitting percentage with two blocks and an ace against Stetson. Her totals for the tournament include 26.5 points (2.65.set), 18 kills (1.80/set), a team-high seven blocks (0.70/set), and five aces (0.50/set).

The reason Wicinski and Kurisch were able to have successful weekends was due large in part to tournament MVP Kristin Hoffman (Batavia, Ill./Batavia). The junior setter notched 32 assists, seven digs, and an ace in the final match of the Elon Classic. Under Hoffman’s guidance, the NIU offense held significant edges in kills (136-101) and hitting percentage (.235-.146). For the tournament, Hoffman totaled 94 assists (9.40/set), 19 digs (1.90/set), 11 points (1.10/set), six kills (0.60/set), four blocks (0.40/set), and three aces (0.30/set). 

“Our whole team did a solid job,” Gooden said. “Mary did a good job in the middle. Lauren led our team in points and did a good job of serving. Kristin was the one running the offense — she ran a really good offense over the weekend.”

Meghan Romo also reached double figures in kills against the Hatters with 11 on 22 swings for a .455 hitting percentage, adding two blocks to boot. Senior libero Maddie Hughes (St. Charles, Ill./North) led the defense with 14 digs.

For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.

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