The Northern Illinois volleyball team started a three-match Mid-American Conference West Division road trip on the right foot Friday night with a 25-19, 25-21, 20-25, 25-21 win over Toledo at Savage Arena.
The Huskies (17-12, 8-5 MAC) racked up .225 to .171 hitting, 7-3 aces and 18-5 blocking advantages to earn their 13th win in their last 15 meetings with the Rockets (8-18, 2-11 MAC).
The biggest factor in the match was NIU’s blocking at the net, which helped force 31 UT hitting errors – NIU had only 16. The Huskies’ 18 blocks were a season-high and the most they’ve had in a match since head coach Ray Gooden took over the program in 2002.
he Huskie middle blockers more than did their jobs as Sarah Angelos (Waukegan, Ill./Waukegan) had eight blocks (all block assists) as did Mary Kurisch (West Salem, Wis./La Crosse) (three solo, five assists), who also had 11 kills on 27 errorless swings for a solid .407 hitting percentage.
“A big chunk of blocks came because of solid serving that put Toledo in tough situations,” said Gooden of the Huskies, who evened their road record this season to 6-6, 3-3 in MAC play. “We made some good moves in other situations. It was nice to win that battle at the net against a traditionally strong blocking team in Toledo.
“Mary and Sarah did a really good job of blocking and orchestrating the front row. It led to a lot of positive plays, especially with Mary offensively. She had a good hitting performance as well.”
Joining the block party with four apiece were MacKenzie Roddy (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon), Alexis Gonzalez (Fresno, Calif./Bullard) and Emily Paschke (Winfield, Ill./West Chicago Community). Also adding to the tally were Meghan Romo (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso) with three and Sam Grams (Forest Park, Ill./Fenwick) with one.
Romo (14) and Roddy (12) chipped in double digit kills as well to lead the Huskie attack. Roddy also tied libero Amber Walker (Juneau, Alaska/Juneau Douglas/Western Oregon) with 17 digs on the night to round out a well-balanced performance.
NIU overcame a 5-1 deficit in the first set with a 16-5 run that gave the Huskies an insurmountable 17-10 lead. The run was started by a Kurisch kill and featured three kills each from Kurisch and Roddy.
Similar to the first set, the Huskies had to dig out of a 9-4 hole in the second. A pair of Roddy kills and NIU blocks put the Huskies back in it and tied the match at 9-9.
The teams then exchanged points until an ace by Sue Hayes (Evergreen Park, Ill./Mother McAuley) and kill by Angelos gave NIU a 19-17 edge.
A few plays later, a Romo kill and Kurisch stuff block pushed NIU’s lead to 23-19 and helped the Huskies grab a 2-0 match lead heading into the break.
With their backs against the wall at home, the Rockets grabbed the third set to prevent a sweep by once again jumping out to an early lead. Down 14-6, NIU bounced back to get within one at 16-15 after a UT attack error, but the Rockets used a quick 5-1 burst to help force a fourth set.
In the final stanza, a back and forth affair leaned the Huskies’ way after a 17-17 tie was broken with an 8-4 NIU run to end the match. Roddy started it with her only ace of the night and added two kills during the spurt, as did Kurisch and Romo.
“Being able to overcome those early deficits was good for us,” Gooden said. “We talked a lot about working through things this week — working through ruts and staying positive. We had a tough third set, but we did a really nice job of staying together to come back from those early deficits.”
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.