Behind the support of a raucous crowd that included several Northern Illinois volleyball alumni, the Huskies topped Miami (Ohio) 3-0 Saturday night at Victor E. Court in a cross-divisional Mid-American Conference contest.
The win gave NIU (15-5, 4-2 MAC) its third straight win and fourth straight against the RedHawks (12-8, 3-3 MAC).
“I thought we did a really nice job with a lot of energy to start off the match and we worked our way through it by staying focused,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “It was a team effort tonight. It was really fun to see our team do well.”
The Huskies stormed out of the gate, taking a 6-2 lead after a solo block by Lauren Wicinski. After a Miami timeout, NIU extended its lead to 10-3 following consecutive Wicinski aces, and left Miami reeling. The RedHawks would close within three points at 21-18 but did not have enough to overcome the deficit as NIU took the first set 25-19.
With the score tied 10-10 in the second set, a dump by Kristin Hoffman and combo block by Wicinski and Mary Kursich gave NIU a lead it would not relinquish. As the Huskies continued to score, Allison McGlaughlin finished the set with a kill for a 25-23 win.
In the third set, NIU broke a 4-4 tie with an 8-4 run to force a Miami timeout. The break did little to stop the Huskies as they would extend the lead to 16-9 after a RedHawk error. With Miami feeling the pressure, the Huskies closed out the match with a 25-15 win to earn their 11th sweep of the season.
As a team, the Huskies held significant advantages over Miami in kills (46-34), hitting percentage (.337-.206), aces (7-2) and digs (41-32). Wicinski led the offense with 13 kills and five aces, while Sarah Angelos had 12 kills and hit .524. Hoffman ran the offense with 40 assists. Defensively, Amber Walker registered a team-high 12 digs.
With many past Huskies present on Alumni Night, including the NIU Athletics Hall of Fame’s newest members Nikki Kozak (1990-93) and the 1993 team, the former players saw a glimpse of the future of NIU volleyball as Wicinski was recognized before the game for becoming the fastest Huskie to reach 1,000 career kills (54 matches).
“It was great last night to see Nikki Kozak and the 1993 team inducted into the Hall of Fame,” Gooden said. “I think that helped refocus our team. There have been some great volleyball players and teams in the tradition of NIU volleyball. They took that energy from last night’s event into tonight and it was great to represent the 1993 team like we did tonight.”
The Huskies embark upon their longest road trip of the conference season next as they travel to Akron, Ohio, and Buffalo, N.Y., this weekend. NIU will face Akron at 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 14, and Buffalo at 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15.