Through 16 matches in the 2011 season, the Northern Illinois volleyball team has fared well with a 12-4 record that includes solid wins over Cincinnati, Marquette and Milwaukee.
The Huskies have also grabbed national attention as they received votes for three straight weeks (Sept. 5-19) in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 25 Poll.
Now, NIU boasts the country’s top offense, led by reigning Mid-American Conference Player and Freshman of the Year Lauren Wicinski.
With an average of 15.15 kills per set, the Huskies rank No. 1 in the NCAA in kills. The main reason NIU is atop the nation is because of Wicinski, a 2010 AVCA All-American Honorable Mention outside hitter. The Geneva, Ill., native leads the country with 5.40 kills per set, which is 23 points better than second place’s Monique Mead from Georgia Tech (5.17).
Because of her No. 3 national ranking in aces per set (0.62), Wicinski also leads the nation in points with an average of 6.35 per set.
As a result of the high volume of Huskie kills, NIU fronts the country in assists (14.17/set) as well. A bulk of the helpers have come from Kristin Hoffman, who ranks in a tie for first in the NCAA with an average of 12.34 per set.
The robust amount of kills and assists NIU’s offense has yielded have been helped by the team’s efficiency in being able to have its shots hit the opposing team’s floor. Ranking 13th in the NCAA, the Huskies posses a healthy .275 attack percentage.
At this point last season, the Huskies were 14-2 and ranked 16th in the NCAA in hitting percentage (.282), 25th in kills (14.09/set) and 31st in assists (12.96/set). Individually, Wicinski ranked fifth in aces (0.76/set), sixth in points (5.46/set) and 15th in kills (4.43/set). Hoffman ranked 29th in assists (10.95/set).
When the 2010 campaign was all said and done, NIU ended up ranked 31st in the nation in hitting percentage (.256), 33rd in kills (14.01/set) and assists (13.07/set), and 38th in aces (1.52/set). Wicinski finished No. 5 in points (5.63/set), sixth in kills (4.82/set) and 10th in aces (0.54/set). Hoffman ended with a No. 16 ranking in assists (11.51/set). With their current pace, the Huskies seem poised to finish the year even better than they did last year.
Wicinski and the Huskies return to action this weekend with their first MAC road swing as they take on Ball State at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30, and Toledo at 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.