Despite a valiant comeback in the fourth set, the Northern Illinois volleyball team could not rally Monday afternoon at Victor E. Court as they fell to the Missouri State Bears, 3-1.
The loss drops the Huskies to 2-2 on the season, while Missouri State moves to 3-1. NIU had three players with double-digit kills on the day, but MSU’s resilience on the defensive end proved too much.
“We have to play against teams like Missouri State to get ourselves ready not only for the rest of the season, but for conference, as well,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden.
“It’s a battle. Those guys are hungry, especially since our success against them last year, but 2013 is a different story. We have to come out and fight and, at times, we really did a good job of that. Now we need to learn how to continue to be stable and be consistent over a period of time.”
At the onset, Missouri State came out firing and secured an early lead on the Huskies. With both teams tied at 6-6, the Bears went on a 4-0 run to claim a 10-6 lead behind kills from Amber Doolittle and Olivia Brand, coupled will a pair of Huskie errors. Yet, NIU responded by rattling off four straight points of their own, with two coming from Mary Grace Kelly kills. MSU would move back into the lead moments later, capped off with consecutive aces to make the score 16-13 and force the Huskies to burn a timeout.
Out of the break, though, NIU rallied and took control of the set with a 9-2 run to move ahead 22-18. With the score 18-15, the Huskies scored seven straight behind kills from Alexis Gonzalez, Lauren Zielinski, Sarah Angelos, MacKenzie Roddy and Kelly, along with blocks from Kelly and Angelos. The four-point margin was more than enough for the Huskies as they coasted to a 25-22 set one win.
The Bears, though, responded emphatically in the second stanza by starting on a 6-1 run. Unlike the first set, NIU could only get within three points on two occasions. MSU lengthened their lead to 16-10 midway through the set. After battling back to 18-15, the Huskies had the door closed on them with the Bears scoring six of the next seven points and cruising to a 25-18 win in the second set.
Coming out of halftime, both teams battled to a 10-10 tie until the Bears broke out for a 15-3 run en route to claim a 25-13 set win and a two sets to one lead over the Huskies. The key to MSU’s run was a 7-0 run where they scored six kills and a block solo on the Huskies.
Meanwhile, NIU could not emerge from the deficit as the match headed into the fourth set. The struggles continued for the Huskies in the fourth set as MSU raced out to an 11-6 lead following a 7-2 run.
After the Bear lead stretched to 16-10 to silence the NIU faithful, the Huskies rallied to try to force a deciding fifth set. Started by a Gonzalez kill, Northern outscored MSU 13-5 to take a 23-21 lead. A key component of the comeback was the senior Angelos, who tallied four points from two kills, a block solo and a block assist. However, it was not meant to be for the Huskies, as the Bears countered with four points from Huskie errors to clinch the set and the match.
Roddy led the Huskie offense with 13 kills, followed by Kelly’s 11 and Angelos’ 10. Gonzalez tallied 36 assists in the match. On defense, Justine Schepler notched 15 digs and Angelos had seven blocks.
NIU returns to action Wednesday night when they take on in-state rival Western Illinois. For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.