The Northern Illinois volleyball team opened the NM State Tournament on a sour note Friday afternoon inside the Pan American Center with a 3-0 loss to the UALR Trojans.
The loss drops the Huskies’ record to 4-4, while the Trojans improved to 3-4. The NIU offense was shut down by 11 UALR blocks and a .093 hitting percentage.
After both teams split the first 10 points of the opening set, UALR stuffed the Huskie offense by notching three straight blocks and forcing another attack error en route to taking a 10-5 lead.
The Trojan lead would grow to 12-5 before Sarah Angelos ended the run with a cross-court kill. The play, though, failed to jumpstart the NIU offense, as UALR built a set-high lead of 19-10 and seemed poised to take the first set. A 5-0 run put the Huskies within four, but that was all the closer they would get with UALR taking a 25-16 first set win.
The Huskies regained their groove on offense early in the second set by building a 4-2 lead behind kills from MacKenzie Roddy and Jenna Radtke. Yet, the Trojans answered back to claim an 8-5 advantage that moved to 11-6, forcing an NIU timeout. Northern continued to fight and got within 15-13, only to have UALR take four of the next five points for a 19-14 lead. The Trojans would claim the second set, 25-21, but not after NIU battled back to within two points of UALR at 21-19 and 22-20.
Following halftime, NIU fell behind early to the Trojans, 4-1. However, the Huskies battled back to take a short-lived 5-4 lead before both sides started exchanging points.
A Tori Halbur ace gave NIU a 13-11 lead, but UALR responded with a 4-0 run to take a 15-13 lead and force a Huskie timeout. That four-point swing proved critical, as UALR maintained that margin until two Huskie errors pushed the NIU deficit to 20-16.
Undeterred, the Huskies rallied and tied the set at 20-20, capping it off with a Roddy ace. Much like the previous two sets, though, NIU’s bad luck reemerged when UALR scored five of the final six points to take the set, 25-21, and the match.
Roddy led the Huskies with 15 kills in the match, while Radtke added nine and Angelos seven. On defense, Justine Schepler paced NIU with 15 digs in the losing effort.
NIU gets back on the floor at 6 p.m. today to take on the Thunderbirds of Southern Utah.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.