The Northern Illinois volleyball team opened up its first West Coast trip since 1997 with its first sweep of 2012 as the Huskies (3-2) topped Nevada (1-3), 25-20, 25-16, 26-24, to open Pacific’s Community Bankers Classic Friday evening at Alex G. Spanos Center.
The key to NIU’s second straight victory was the stellar performance the Huskies received from their 2011 All-Mid-American Conference middle blockers Sarah Angelos (Waukegan, Ill./Waukegan) and Mary Kurisch (La Crosse, Wis./West Salem).
The two combined to go 20-1-32 on the day for a .594 attack percentage. Each had 10 kills as Angelos had the lone error on 18 swings, adding a team-high three blocks. Kurisch was near perfect on 14 swings and had two blocks.
“I thought the middles did a nice job of connecting with Pookie (Alexis Gonzalez) tonight,” said NIU Head Coach Ray Gooden. “I really thought our ball control helped us get into that spot. Kudos to our defenders for our ball control tonight.”
California natives MacKenzie Roddy (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon) and Gonzalez (Fresno, Calif./Bullard) also came through for NIU in what might be their only chance during their Huskie careers to play in their home state. From the pin, Roddy notched a team-high 11 kills and was one dig shy of a double-double. Gonzalez ran the Huskie offense to the tune of 37 assists, five digs, three aces and had two kills on three swings with one error.
“We hope it was a fun experience for them both, being able to come back closer to their home towns and get a chance to play,” Gooden said. “It’s fun for us being out here.”
NIU took the first set thanks to an 8-3 run with the score tied at 17 as Angelos started the spurt with a kill and combo block with Gonzalez. The California girls sparked the second set win as Roddy broke a 10-10 tie with a kill and Gonzalez followed with a kill of her own.
From there, NIU would finish the set on a 13-6 run. Trailing 15-11 in the third frame, three straight Wolf Pack errors helped NIU climb back. Then Roddy took over with a kill and two consecutive aces to put NIU ahead. After exchanging the lead three times, a triple block by Gonzalez, Kurisch and Roddy gave NIU match point, 24-23.
Nevada matched with a kill, but Roddy put an end to the tussle in front of her hometown crowd with back-to-back kills.
Overall, NIU racked up large advantages in kills (41-29), hitting percentage (.206-.075) and digs (55-40) in improving to 2-0 all-time against Nevada. The two last met in 1992 – a four-set win at the Cal State-Northridge Invitational.
NIU continues the tournament tomorrow with two matches. The Huskies play Portland State (1-2) at 12 PM CT and tourney host Pacific (3-0) at 9 PM to wrap up the Classic. Both contests will feature live stats and live video for free on Pacific’s Tournament Central website.
“The goal for us tomorrow is to go play-by-play,” Gooden said. “We can’t do it all in one play, one serve , or one swing. Both teams tomorrow are really good at playing solid volleyball for a long period of time. It will be a good challenge for us to play good, sustained volleyball.”
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.