The Northern Illinois volleyball team kept the No. 23 Ohio State Buckeyes close for the entirety of the match, but came just short in a 3-2 loss Saturday night at Victor E. Court.
In front of a raucous home crowd, the Huskies notched 18 team blocks on the night to stymie the Ohio State attack for most of the match. However, key moments in the second and fourth set sent NIU to their first loss of the 2013 season.
“We battled hard against Ohio State,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “There’s no moral victory from it. I think they’re a great team, but I think we’re doing some pretty good things, too. If we can learn from it and work together, I think it will help us in the future.”
NIU made a statement early against the Buckeyes by racing out to a 5-1 lead early in the first set.
After the two sides exchanged the first two points of the match, Jenna Radtke and MacKenzie Roddy teamed up for a block. That duo followed that up with consecutive kills before an errant OSU attack made it 5-1 Huskies and forced the Buckeyes to call a timeout.
Ohio State fought their way back to a tie before NIU unleashed another 4-0 run behind a Lauren Zielinski block, a Roddy ace and some sloppy play by the Buckeyes. That run enabled the Huskies to build up an 18-11 lead that was capitalized by a thunderous kill by Sarah Angelos. The Buckeyes would crawl back to within two, but NIU took advantage of OSU’s attack errors and a key block from Zielinski and Ratke late to take the first set, 25-22.
The Buckeyes responded with a convincing set two win that saw them hit .538 in the set. After staking a 10-4 lead early, Ohio State continued their barrage of attacks from the left side, outscoring NIU 15-8 the rest of the set to even things up at halftime. In the second set alone, OSU notched a .538 hitting percentage with 17 kills on 26 attempts.
OSU once again started fast by taking a 5-1 edge to open the third. However, the Huskies fought back and used a 6-2 run to tie the set at seven apiece. Yet, the Buckeyes found a way to reclaim a four point edge on the back of kills from Kylie Randall and Kaitlyn Leary. Again, though, NIU battled back and got to within 18-17. However, OSU would pull away late with kills from Randall, Leary, Anna Faul and Taylor Sandbothe before Leary clinched the set win with two more kills.
With the Huskie faithful clamoring for a comeback, NIU and OSU went back-and-forth throughout the fourth set en route to a 16-16 tie. Coming out of a Buckeye timeout, the Huskies blew open the set with a 5-0 run courtesy of blocks from Radtke and Roddy, followed by kills from Roddy and Zielinski for a 21-16 lead. That five-point edge proved the winning margin, as the Huskies forced a fifth set with a 25-20 set win.
Much like the fourth set started, the final stanza began with the Huskies and Buckeyes exchanging points. Tied an 8-8, OSU took advantage of a Huskie error and scored four straight points for a 12-8 lead. Though an Angelos kill would get NIU within three, the Buckeyes clinched the win by scoring the final two points of the deciding set. All told, OSU hit .500 in the fifth, while limited NIU to .200.
Roddy notched a double-double on the night with 15 kills and 10 digs. Meanwhile, Angelos paced the Huskies with 17 kills, while Justine Schepler contributed 22 digs in the effort. Additionally, Radtke added 11 kills on the night.
NIU makes a quick turnaround and returns to action Monday afternoon when they host Missouri State at 2 p.m. inside Victor E. Court. All fans are encouraged to wear white for a Labor Day White Out.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.