Less than 24 hours after grinding out a tough five-set win over 2011 NCAA Tournament team North Dakota State, the Northern Illinois volleyball team couldn’t do it again against another 2011 NCAA team as Wichita State edged the Huskies in five sets (18-25, 25-21, 22-25, 25-22, 22-20) on Saturday afternoon at Victor E. Court.
With the match knotted 2-2 and heading into the fifth set, NIU (1-1) came out strong for the second day in a row in the fifth to take a 9-5 lead after a WSU (1-1) attack error.
Two Shocker kills and two Huskie errors later, the set was tied 9-9. From there, it was an exciting back and forth, point-for-point fight. The Huskies struck first by taking a 14-12 lead on a combo block by junior middle blocker Sarah Angelos and junior setter Kayla Zeno. But an Angelos attack error and Zeno blocking error brought the Shockers back.
Zeno fired back with a cross-court kill to give NIU another chance at match point, but the Shockers answered with a kill. NIU would then have four more chances at match point but the resilient Shockers had a counter each time.
Then, with NIU ahead 19-18, the Huskies thought they had the match won as Wichita State touched the ball four times on its side, but the up official Terri Narantic did not see a two-ball call that down official Steve Schach called on the Huskies. As NIU was lining up to shake hands with WSU, thinking the match was over, the officials met and made the two-ball call. That tied the match back at 19 and sucked a little wind out of the Huskies.
WSU immediately took advantage after getting a block to go up 20-19. Following a kill from sophomore outside hitter MacKenzie Roddy, a WSU kill and block ended the match in the Shockers’ favor.
“In simple terms, we had a heck of a fight against a really good Wichita State team,” said NIU Head Coach Ray Gooden. “They are an NCAA Tournament team that’s battle-tested. We did a good job of putting them under pressure and had a lot of back and forth play. We had some tough, tight calls toward the end but we have to control the ball on our side. Hopefully we can learn from it and do better tonight.”
Statistically, both sides were very even as though only significant discrepancy was WSU’s 83-71 digs advantage.
Angelos led the way for NIU as she totaled a career-high 17 kills (.294), while Roddy added 15 and senior outside hitter Meghan Romo had 14. Roddy also added a team-high 15 digs for her second straight double-double. Freshman setter Alexis “Pookie” Gonzalez notched her second straight double-double with 50 assists and 13 digs to go along with five kills on an errorless six swings (.833) and two aces.
“I thought our pins did a good job of attacking for a while and our defense continued to be strong,” Gooden said. “We are going to continue to get better and play against a good team tonight.”
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.