After going 8-6 on a near-month long road trip, the Northern Illinois volleyball team completed a 2-0 Mid-American Conference home opening weekend back in the comfort of Victor E. Court with a 27-25, 25-14, 25-15 win over Toledo Saturday night.
The victory gave the Huskies (12-8) their second 3-1 start in league play in the past three years (2010) as the Rockets fell to 7-9, 1-3 in conference action.
“I thought we had a really good end to our first weekend back at home,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “Last night we did a really good job of working our way through it and tonight we continued with improvements. We played solid volleyball.”
Winners of nine of their last 12 matches, the Huskies picked up their third straight triumph over Toledo, and their 12th in the last 14 meetings, by holding significant edges in hitting (.301-.129), kills (45-24), aces (7-1), digs (31-25), and blocks (8-5). The efficient hitting match marked NIU’s fifth this season over .300.
Senior outside hitter Meghan Romo (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso) paced NIU with a match-high 14 kills, while fellow senior middle blocker Mary Kurisch (La Crosse, Wis./West Salem) was most proficient with a .438 hitting clip, nine kills and a match-high five blocks.
Sophomore outside MacKenzie Roddy (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon) also reached double figures in kills with 12, and hit .333 to boot. Freshman setter Pookie Gonzalez (Fresno, Calif./Bullard) dished out 32 assists and was one dig shy of a double-double.
While the match was a sweep, it could have been far different had the first set not gone in NIU’s favor. Tightly contested the whole way, the Huskies used a 7-3 run to open up an 18-14 lead after help from two kills and a solo block by Roddy.
However, the Huskies struggled to put away the Rockets as UT fought off three NIU chances at set-point, tying the score at 24. After the teams exchanged points, Romo ended the set for the Huskies with a kill and solo block.
“We had a slow start to the first set, but after that we did a real nice job of taking care of business,” Gooden said. “The energy was incredible, the fans were awesome – it’s so nice to be at home. It’s nice for us to have positive results here on a great Huskie weekend.”
From there, NIU seized the momentum from the get-go in the next two sets. The Huskies jumped out to a 19-8 lead in the second and an 18-10 lead in the third en route to their fifth three-set win of the season.
NIU continues its season-long, three-match home stand Thursday, Oct. 4, against Western Michigan at 7 PM CT before traveling to Oxford, Ohio to face Miami (Ohio) at 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 6.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.