The Northern Illinois volleyball team earned their first sweep of the season Saturday afternoon in Victor E. Court with a 3-0 win over the Liberty Flames.
The Huskies made quick work of the Flames, a team that has advanced to the last two NCAA Tournaments, behind holding convincing edges in hitting percentage (.300-.030), kills (45-22) and digs (52-36).
“We work really hard to have solid events here,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “Our tournaments have been solid in the past. The teams that we have in the field this year is a lot like other years. Liberty is well-coached and a very consistent program that has been to the NCAAs. So for us to be able to play against them at our place and, to have positive play that we had, we feel really good about the match today.”
As they did Friday night, the Huskies rolled early en route to an early 11-4 lead over the Flames. With the score 5-3 in favor of NIU, the Huskies used a Jenna Radtke kill and MacKenzie Roddy ace to push the lead to 7-3. Following a service error from Roddy, NIU ran off four straight points, which included kills from Lauren Zielinski and Mary Grace Kelly, along with an assisted block from Kelly and Sarah Angelos. After Liberty battled back to get within 14-12, the Huskies eliminated any chance of a Flame comeback by going on a 10-2 run and closed the set with a 25-16 win in the opening set.
Both sides traded points to open the second set before three consecutive Kelly kills and a Kayla Zeno ace quickly made it a 10-6 Huskie advantage. Moments later with the tally at 14-10, NIU stretched the margin to 19-10 behind kills from Emily Paschke, Tori Halbur, Radtke and Roddy. Though the Flames rattled off three straight to get within six, NIU quashed the Liberty rally en route to a 25-15 second set triumph.
After halftime, Liberty came out on fire and got an early 7-3 lead before Gooden was forced to call a timeout and regroup his team. Following the break, NIU scored four of the next five points to tie the match at eight apiece. The two sides exchanged blows once again for several points until Radtke and Kelly kills got NIU a 19-17 lead they would not relinquish. Though the Flames would get within one on two occasions, solid blocking and sound contributions from a deep bench allowed NIU to get a 25-22 third set win and the sweep.
Statiistically, Kelly paced the NIU offense with 13 kills and a .333 hitting percentage, while Roddy and Radtke contributed 10 and six kills, respectively. On defense, Justine Schepler led NIU with 11 digs, followed by Roddy’s nine, Alexis Gonzalez’s eight and Kelly’s eight.
The Huskies close out the NIU Invitational tonight when they face No. 23 Ohio State for the tournament championship.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.