The Northern Illinois volleyball team ended the Mid-American Conference regular season on a high note Saturday night by taking down Bowling Green, the team in the MAC with the second most league wins, in four sets on Senior Night at Victor E. Court.
The Huskies (19-13, 10-6 MAC) used strong serving – 9-3 aces edge – to beat the Falcons (18-10, 13-3 MAC) 25-23, 18-25, 25-19, 25-18 for the fourth straight time and give NIU head coach Ray Gooden his fourth season with 10 or more MAC wins.
“Tonight’s a regular season celebration, first and foremost, for the seniors,” Gooden said. “They’ve gone through four years of all different things – lows and highs. They did a good job of coming together tonight. Our non-seniors played really hard for the seniors, which shows how much respect they have for the seniors.”
The Huskies used a 6-2 run in the first set to break a 13-13 tie to take control.
Senior Mary Kurisch (La Crosse, Wis./West Salem) started it with a kill and then fellow senior Meghan Romo (Valparaiso, Ind./Valparaiso) had two straight stuff blocks. Later in the set, BG made it tight with back-to-back kills from Lindsey Butterfield, making it a 24-23 NIU lead. But Kurisch answered emphatically on a quick to end the set.
Tied again at 13 in the second set, it was Bowling Green that made a push with a 12-5 run to knot the match at the break.
In the important swing set, NIU came out blazing as senior Amber Walker (Juneau, Alaska/Juneau Douglas/Western Oregon) fired two aces with a Kurisch kill sandwiched in between. The Huskies opened the set with a 10-5 run. NIU kept scoring at will to regain the match lead as BG never recovered in the frame and only got as close as two points away from NIU the rest of the way.
In the final set, NIU again opened an early lead by going up 12-8 after an ace by freshman Alexis Gonzalez (Fresno, Calif./Bullard) and another stuff block by Romo.
The Falcons fought back to tie it at 13, but the Huskies responded with a 12-5 spurt to end the match. Roddy began it with a kill, then two BG attack errors and a Kurisch ace got the Huskies rolling and they never looked back.
Kurisch led NIU with 15 kills and hit a solid .387. MacKenzie Roddy and Sarah Angelos (Waukegan, Ill./Waukegan) netted 12 kills each. Romo was the fourth in double figure kills with 11, and added a career-high-tying five blocks. Gonzalez dished out 48 assists and had two aces.
In the back row, Walker totaled a match-high 18 digs and racked up a career best five aces.
“It was good for us to defend our home against one of the best teams in our conference,” Gooden said. “Bowling Green is a great team. They are physical, they are confident and play really well and are really well-coached. It was great for us to get a signature win at home to get ready for the MAC Tournament.”
Next up for NIU is the MAC Tournament in Geneva, Ohio at SPIRE Institute as the No. 4-seeded Huskies take on No. 5 seed Akron in the first round at 10 a.m. Friday, Nov. 16.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.