The Northern Illinois University volleyball team got off to a great start Friday night at Victor E. Court, but could not keep the momentum going in a 3-1 loss to the Ohio Bobcats.
NIU (12-11, 4-5 MAC) earned a strong first set win to go up early on the MAC East Division’s top squad, but Ohio (17-4, 7-2 MAC) came back with three straight set victories to take the win.
“Tonight was a tough one because, again, we had flashes of playing some pretty good volleyball against one of the best teams in the conference and one of the better teams in the country,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “It’s just a matter of us learning how to score points at the right time. If there’s any take from it, we are capable of playing good volleyball. We just got to understand how to do it at the right times.”
Going up against the MAC’s best offense, the Huskies matched the high-powered Bobcats almost point for point from the start of the first set.
Though Ohio got a slim 7-5 lead early in the set, NIU battled back with back-to-back kills from Sarah Angelos to knot things at 7-7. The Huskies took advantage of some Bobcat miscues to claim a 10-8 edge, but the visitors came back and tied the set at 10. From there, the two sides traded blows until 16-16. That’s when an Angelos kill and a Mary Grace Kelly/Angelos combo block gave the Huskies an 18-16 advantage. Ohio would tie the set at 21-21, but kills from Kelly and Jenna Radtke helped NIU take control of the set and claim a 25-22 win.
The NIU momentum carried into the second set to the tune of a 4-1 run to open the stanza. Ohio, though, quickly quashed that run with a 4-1 response to tie the match at 5-5. After NIU moved ahead, 10-9, on an Ohio ballhanding error, the Bobcats jumped ahead of the Huskies with a 7-1 run to make it a 16-11 NIU deficit. Though the Huskies would get back to within 23-20, the Bobcats closed out the set and tied the match with a 25-20 win.
NIU and Ohio exchanged points early in the third. However, with the score tied at 5-5, the Bobcats broke things open with a 6-1 run to stake an 11-6 lead. The Huskies quickly battled back to 11-9 with kills from Angelos, Kelly and Alexis Gonzalez. Yet, Ohio continued to get past the NIU front line and built a 19-13 advantage. The Huskies staged a late rally when a 5-1 run got NIU back to within 24-22, only to have the Bobcats close the door with a block to earn a 25-22 third set win.
The Huskies would play catch-up for the majority of the fourth set, as they came back from two deficits of three points within the first 13 points. After letting the Bobcats get a quick 5-2 lead, MacKenzie Roddy got a kill and a service ace before Radtke forged a deadlock at 5-5 with a kill. Once Ohio got back ahead, 8-5, NIU got another 3-0 run from a Roddy kill, an Angelos/Emily Paschke block and a Bobcat error. However, a 6-1 Ohio run gave them a 14-9 lead that seemingly killed NIU’s hopes of forcing a fifth set. Though the Huskies would crawl back to within 19-18, the Bobcats proved to be too much with a 25-21 fourth set win.
Angelos and Roddy led the NIU offense with 11 kills each, while Kelly was the only other Huskie in double-digits with 10 spikes on the night. On defense, Angelos netted five blocks, while four Huskies – Justine Schepler, Gonzalez, Roddy and Kayla Zeno – earned double-digit digs in the loss.
The Huskies look to finish their weekend on a high note Saturday when they host Kent State at 7 p.m. for the annual Pink Match and Alumni Night. Fans are reminded that parking will be charged due to the NIU football game and concert at 7 p.m.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.