Rebounding from a tough loss at home to Western Michigan Thursday, the Northern Illinois volleyball team bounced back in impressive fashion by sweeping Mid-American Conference East Division foe Miami (Ohio) at Millett Hall for the first time under NIU head coach Ray Gooden.
The 25-19, 25-17, 25-20 win was the Huskies’ (13-9, 4-2 MAC) fifth straight win over the RedHawks (5-14, 0-6 MAC) and gave them an 18-17 lead in the all-time series.
After freshman setter Alexis Gonzalez (Fresno, Calif./Bullard) struggled to find rhythm with her hitters on Thursday, “Pookie” returned to the court strong Saturday evening by guiding NIU to its highest hitting percentage of the season – .412.
Totaling 33 assists, seven digs, three kills on four errorless swings and an ace, Gonzalez helped three other Huskies hit .500 or better.
Junior middle blocker Sarah Angelos (Waukegan, Ill./Waukegan) led the way with a .556 clip with 10 kills and 18 errorless swings. Senior outside hitter Meghan Romo (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso) hit .500 with a match-high 12 kills on 24 error-free swings. Sophomore Emily Paschke (Winfield, Ill./West Chicago Community) also hit .500 with four kills on eight errorless swings. Sophomore outside MacKenzie Roddy (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon) reached double figures as well, totaling 10 kills, and hit .259.
“I think that we really didn’t feel good after Thursday’s match,” said Gooden. “We were a few plays away. We wanted to make a positive turn and work on the things we wanted to work on after Thursday – we handled the ball and were much more efficient on the attack. Pookie did a really good job of rebounding and helping our team be successful with distribution.”
The defensive effort was stout as well for NIU.
The Huskies out-dug MU 42-28, led by senior Sue Hayes (Evergreen Park, Ill./Mother McAuley), and held a 6-1 blocking edge. Senior middle Mary Kurisch (La Crosse, Wis./West Salem) paced NIU with a match-high six blocks.
“We think we are strong defensively and wanted to establish ourselves with back row play,” Gooden said. “We continue to make strides with the front row play and blocking.”
The first set belonged nearly all to Romo as she went 7-for-7 on swings. She had three kills and a block to open up a 6-0 lead for NIU. Then with the Huskies up 16-15, kills from Roddy and Paschke, along with an MU error and Kurisch ace opened up a 20-15 lead that pushed NIU to a 1-0 match edge.
Down 9-5 in second set, NIU went on 12-5 run behind three kills, an ace and block by Roddy to open up a 17-14 edge. Then a Roddy ace and Angelos kill gave NIU a 21-16 lead and four MU attack errors helped end the set.
Tied at 13 in third, kills from Angelos and Gonzalez and an ace by Hayes gave NIU a 16-13 advantage. Angelos then followed with two more kills to open an 18-13 lead en route to ending the match.
NIU returns home next weekend to face East Division foes Buffalo at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12, and Akron at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.