For the second time this season in Mid-American Conference play, the Northern Illinois volleyball team was taken down Friday night by Eastern Michigan – first in three sets and now in four (18-25, 25-23, 27-25, 25-15).
Despite the Huskies (15-12, 6-5 MAC) owning 69-47 kills, .257-.245 hitting and 81-65 digs advantages, the Eagles (15-12, 5-6 MAC) scored at the right times and only had 12 hitting errors to NIU’s 25 at Victor E. Court.
“Tonight is not unexplainable from a standpoint of Eastern playing really well against us at home,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden, who had beaten EMU in seven of the last eight matches entering this season.
“Statistically, we dominated in so many categories but sometimes the numbers just don’t matter – it’s the final number at the end that matters. We had some really good performances from some of our players but we just didn’t score the right points.”
After a successful 3-2 swing against the MAC East Division, NIU returned home to face its fellow MAC West foes and started off with a setback, even though the night started off well for the Huskies.
NIU jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the first set with help from three kills by senior outside hitter Meghan Romo (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso). NIU maintained the edge and ended up hitting .500 for the set with a whopping 19 kills to EMU’s 10. Romo led the way with six kills on 10 errorless swings.
The second set was when the tide started turning, as NIU kept pounding away to total 20 kills in the frame to EMU’s 13. However, following a kill from sophomore outside MacKenzie Roddy (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon) that tied the set at 12-12, three straight points got the Eagles going.
NIU bounced back to take a 19-18 lead after a kill from sophomore outside Emily Paschke (Winfield, Ill./West Chicago Community). Two plays later, Paschke struck again to put NIU up 21-19, and it looked as if the Huskies would take a commanding 2-0 lead into the break.
But an EMU kill and ace put the Eagles right back in it. After the teams exchanged kills, a Huskie error and EMU kill gave the Eagles a chance at set-point. Junior middle blocker Sarah Angelos (Waukegan, Ill./Waukegan) kept NIU alive on a slide, but the Eagles answered right back with a kill to leave the match tied at the break.
Feeling the momentum shift, the Eagles came out soaring in the third set by taking a 10-4 lead. NIU gradually chipped away at the lead and tied it at 23-23 following kills from Romo and Roddy.
Then, out of an EMU timeout, senior middle Mary Kurisch (La Crosse, Wis./West Salem) hammered down an overpass to give NIU chance to complete the comeback. On the next sequence, NIU dug up EMU’s attack but the pass forced an awkward set and Romo was unable to get a clean swing on the ball – swinging left-handed and hitting into the net.
But Kurisch came through again for NIU on the ensuing play with another kill to set up NIU’s second chance at set-point. This time, the Huskies didn’t dig up EMU’s attack, and followed with an attack error to give the Eagles their first crack at set-point. EMU wasted no time and scored on its first try to snatch a 2-1 lead in the match.
Feeling the win coming, the Eagles kept rolling in the fourth by opening up another 10-4 lead. Unfortunately, the Huskies were unable to muster up a comeback attempt like they did in the third as EMU closed the set on a 15-11 run.
“If we get a few of those plays back and to go our way, the result could’ve been different,” Gooden said. “But we have to keep fighting. We are going to get ourselves turned around. We have another tough match against Central tomorrow night. If we continue to play well consistently, we have a chance to be successful.”
Four Huskies tallied double figure kills, led by Romo’s 16. Angelos had 14 on 24 errorless swings for a stellar .583 attack percentage, and Kurisch and Roddy added 13 apiece.
Four Huskies also racked up 10-plus digs, paced by senior libero Amber Walker’s (Juneau, Alaska/Juneau Douglas/Western Oregon) match-high 28. Roddy and senior defensive specialist Sue Hayes (Evergreen Park, Ill./Mother McAuley) turned in 12 each, and junior Justine Schepler (Sycamore, Ill./Sycamore) had 10.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.