Back on the right track, the Northern Illinois volleyball team completed a perfect road weekend Sunday afternoon with a 25-14, 25-20, 25-21 sweep of Ball State at Worthen Arena in Mid-American Conference West Division action.
The Huskies (18-12, 9-5 MAC) earned their fourth straight win over the Cardinals (13-14, 6-8 MAC), and third straight win overall, by holding .352-.217 hitting, 55-39 kills and 57-47 digs advantages.
“We have been working really hard on gaining momentum toward the end of the season,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden as his team swept Ball State in Muncie for the first time since 1990. “This was one of our strongest starts in recent memory at this time of the year. It was good to come out playing well in each set. It was a nice end to a solid road weekend. Getting two wins at this time of the year in conference play is pretty big.”
As a team, the Huskies hit over .300 for the seventh time this season.
Three players hit over .340, led by senior middle blocker Mary Kurisch’s (West Salem, Wis./La Crosse) .550 performance with 12 kills. Senior outside hitter Meghan Romo (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso) hit .433 with a match-high 15 kills and junior middle Sarah Angelos (Waukegan, Ill./Waukegan) hit .348 with nine kills. Sophomore outside MacKenzie Roddy (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon) also reached double figures in kills with 11 and added 11 digs for her ninth double-double of the season.
Freshman setter Alexis Gonzalez (Fresno, Calif./Bullard) handed out 45 assists and was even 2-for-5 on swings for a .400 attack percentage as she guided the offense to a proficient performance.
“Everybody was really pumped up for this one and their response was good,” Gooden said. “Pookie (Alexis Gonzalez) did a good job of tossing the ball around and the hitters put themselves in good spots to be successful.”
Defensively, senior libero Amber Walker (Juneau, Alaska/Juneau Douglas/Western Oregon) totaled a match-high 25 digs, while Kurisch paced the front row with four blocks
The Huskies used quick starts in each set to leave Ball State playing from behind and unable to catch up. In the first, NIU went up 19-6 thanks in part to five kills from Romo and four from Roddy. In the second, the Huskies opened a 17-9 edge with help from four kills apiece by Kurisch and Romo. In the final stanza, it was a 13-9 lead to start it that pushed NIU to victory.
NIU next faces its second split weekend of the season as the Huskies travel to Western Michigan for a match at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8, and then return home to finish the regular season on senior night against Bowling Green at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.