The Northern Illinois volleyball team fell 25-27, 25-23, 19-25, 17-25 to Kent State Saturday night at the M.A.C. Center.
The decision ended a five-match winning streak the Huskies (15-11, 6-4 MAC) had over the Golden Flashes (5-17, 2-8 MAC) and gave NIU its first 0-2 weekend in conference play since Oct. 29-30, 2010 at Toledo and Ball State.
“With the exception of a couple times and a couple players, they were better than us play for play and player for player tonight,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “We are still looking for ways to be as consistent as we need to be during the most challenging part of the season.”
The biggest key to the match for KSU was a 16-5 blocking advantage that gave the Huskie hitters fits all night, despite NIU owning a 53-49 edge in kills. The solid KSU blocking led to 28 NIU hitting errors, while the Golden Flashes had just 19. KSU also served tough with a 10-6 aces edge.
Outside hitters Meghan Romo (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso) and MacKenzie Roddy (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon) led NIU with 14 kills apiece. Middle blocker Sarah Angelos (Waukegan, Ill./Waukegan) also reached double figures kills with 13 and hit a robust .600.
Defensively, libero Amber Walker (Juneau, Alaska/Juneau Douglas/Western Oregon) paced the match with 22 digs.
For the second night in a row, NIU opened up with a large lead in the first set but was unable to finish it off. The Huskies went up 12-7 after two blocks by Angelos and an ace from Roddy. Then, up 21-17, KSU stormed back with a 6-1 run to take a 23-22 lead. The teams then exchanged points until a kill and a dump by KSU gave the Golden Flashes a 1-0 match lead.
NIU rebounded in the second set, using an Angelos kill and back-to-back blocks to take an 18-15 lead after trailing early in the set. Several plays later, Mary Kurisch (La Crosse, Wis./West Salem) hammered one down with no block to send NIU into the locker room with the match tied.
However, NIU did not seize the momentum as Kent State came out hot in the third and fourth sets with large early leads to put away the Huskies. In the third, it was a 10-2 run fueled by four blocks that left too large a deficit for NIU to overcome. In the fourth, KSU marched out to an 8-3 lead thanks to three more blocks.
NIU returns to West Division play next weekend as the Huskies play host to Eastern Michigan at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26, and Central Michigan at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.