The Northern Illinois women’s volleyball team spoiled Central Michigan’s 2011 Mid-American Conference tournament championship celebration night with an 18-25, 25-16, 30-28, 25-22 win Friday night at a raucous McGuirk Arena.
The Huskies (10-7, 1-0 MAC) won their MAC opener over the Chippewas (6-6, 0-1 MAC) fueled by motivation from last year’s MAC title match loss as NIU improved to 5-0 in its last five regular season contests against CMU.
“I think every team in the conference really worked hard in non-conference play to get ready for conference,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “Our records might not have helped our overall conference ranking but it got everyone ready. Central is a tough team and it was nice to see our team fight hard for a win.”
After coming out flat in the first set, the Huskies dug in for the second and opened a 7-1 lead following a pair of kills from seniors Meghan Romo (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso) and Mary Kurisch (La Crosse, Wis./West Salem) that sparked the win to tie the match.
Then came the all-important swing set, and swing it did. CMU jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead and held the edge until three straight Chippewa errors tied the third set at 15. CMU regained the three-point edge after a kill and Huskie error that made it 20-17.
Staring a 2-1 disadvantage in the face, junior Sarah Angelos (Waukegan, Ill./Waukegan) and Romo fired two straight kills to bring NIU within a point, 23-22. Out of a CMU timeout, Romo scored again to tie it.
From there, NIU shook of five straight CMU set-point chances before Angelos turned the table with back-to-back kills. With a 29-28 Huskie lead, CMU called timeout but the Chips never got a chance to respond as sophomore MacKenzie Roddy’s (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon) serve was too much to handle. The ace gave the Huskies all the momentum and a 2-1 lead.
“The end of the third set was pretty fun, from the stand point of we each had to make a play,” said Gooden. “And both teams did for a good five or six points. Sometimes you are fortunate and we were able to turn the point. Then Roddy had the ace. It was great to see our team respond when we had to make plays.”
As they did in the third set, the Huskies had to keep fighting to end the match.
With CMU up 16-12 in the fourth frame, NIU called timeout to regroup. Following a CMU error, Roddy notched a kill and Angelos and senior Sam Grams (Forest Park, Ill./Fenwick) backed it up with a huge block.
A few plays later, a Roddy kill and two straight CMU errors gave the Huskies a 19-18 edge. A bad set then made it a 20-18 lead, and after a CMU kill, Roddy and Kurisch each scored to give NIU a 22-19 advantage. Sensing the match slipping away, the Chippewas called their second timeout in the last five plays but it did nothing to stop the Huskies as two CMU serve errors and a Roddy kill ended the match.
For the second straight match, Roddy led the way for NIU by totaling 19 kills 12 digs, two aces and hitting .311.
Her elevated play over the past few weeks continued as she has 49 kills, 19 digs and six aces over last two matches and is hitting .365. Since a tough showing at the Pacific Invitational, Roddy has rebounded to tally double-figure kills in eight of the 10 matches since and has had multiple aces in four of the last five.
“Match by match, she continues to find little things about herself that she’s good at,” Gooden said of Roddy. “She had another solid night attacking, serving and playing defense. To see her continue to improve, as well as the entire team, is great.”
Romo (17) and Kurisch (10) also scored double digit kills, while freshman Alexis Gonzalez (Fresno, Calif./Bullard) ran the offense with 49 assists, seven digs and two aces.
“We can celebrate this match for the bus ride to Ypsilanti but we have to be ready to play Eastern Michigan tomorrow,” Gooden said. “It’s another conference match so it will be a battle. We are excited.”
NIU continues its MAC opening weekend at 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 22, in Ypsilanti, Mich., versus Eastern Michigan (10-6). EMUEagles.com will provide the following for the match (Stats | Video). The contest will mark the end of a 14-match, 23-day road trip that accounts for 42 percent of NIU’s schedule. The Huskies are 8-5 on the excursion thus far.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.