The Northern Illinois volleyball team closed out itsseason-opening homestand the right way Saturday night at Victor E. Court with a convincing 3-1 win over Belmont.
The win boosts NIU’s record to 4-3 on the year, while the Bruins fell to 2-6. Statistically, the Huskies held a .298-.185 attack percentage advantage over the Bruins, in addition to recording a season-high nine service aces. Northern’s nine aces were the most in a four-set match since Aug. 28, 2012, when the Huskies recorded nine against Green Bay.
“We knew that they were going to come in real hungry and give us a real challenging match,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “Belmont’s a really strong team. It was great for us to have a really good start against those guys. We played really well.”
The Huskies came out firing in the first set and built an early 11-4 lead on the Bruins. Belmont, though responded with a 7-3 run of their own to get within 14-11. That’s all the closer the visitors would get, as NIU took advantage of a pair of BU errors and kills from MacKenzie Roddy and Mary Grace Kelly to extend the margin to 18-12. That outburst proved to be all the Huskies needed, as they coasted to an easy 25-17 set one win.
The Huskies got a big boost during the run from three service aces, first from Sarah Angelos and two consecutive ones from Roddy. Despite holding a seven-point lead, NIU still had to fight off a scrappy Belmont team, as the Bruins got back to within 17-14 of the Huskies to force an NIU timeout. Though BU got to within 22-20, the Huskie defense halted the rally by forcing a Bruin error. Yet, Belmont kept fighting and got to within 24-23 and held serve. However, NIU clinched with a Roddy kill for a 25-23 set two win and a 2-0 halftime advantage.
Desperate to stay in the match, Belmont used a 3-0 run early in the third set to claim a 7-4 lead. The Huskies responded with a 5-0 run of their own behind kills from Lauren Zielinski, Kelly and Angelos, along with a solo stuff by Kelly, to take a 9-7 edge.
That slim margin did not last long, though, as Belmont tied the match at 10-10. What ensued was an exchange of points by both teams until Belmont bucked the trend with another 3-0 run to make the score 21-18 in favor of the Bruins. The Huskies clawed back to within 21-20, but the second Belmont run was too much to overcome as the Bruins took a 25-22 set three victory.
While Belmont seemed primed to make a second half comeback, the Huskies weren’t having any of it and responded with a 5-2 run to open the fourth courtesy of two Kelly kills and a Roddy block.
The lead would grow to 9-4, as Jenna Radtke zoned in on a BU overpass and slammed it home for the emphatic point. Radtke continued to dampen the hopes of a Bruin comeback when her service ace made the score 14-7 and forced Belmont to burn a timeout. Kills from Angelos, Roddy and Kelly boosted the lead to 18-9, allowing the Huskies to coast to a 25-13 set four win and a 3-1 match triumph. In addition to winning by a comfortable 12-point margin, the Huskies went error-free in the fourth set.
Roddy clinched her fifth double-double in seven matches with 14 digs and 10 kills. Kelly paced the Huskie offense with 13 kills, while Justine Schepler also netted 14 digs on the defensive side.
The Huskies return to action next weekend when they travel to Las Cruces, N.M., for the NM State Tournament, where they will play UALR, Southern Utah and tournament host New Mexico State.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.