The Northern Illinois University volleyball team capped its road schedule on a positive note Saturday at the EMU Convocation Center with a 3-1 win over the Eastern Michigan Eagles.
NIU (17-11, 9-5 MAC) is now on a five-match winning streak heading into the final weekend of the season, as they held EMU (14-15, 4-10 MAC) to a .188 attack percentage and forced 24 attack errors.
“I’m really happy for our team,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “We knew it was going to be a battle against Eastern (Michigan) because they are so good at home. We started off really strong with some good serving from Kayla (Zeno) and good transition from our team.”
“It was nice for our group to come back and recover in the fourth set, especially off the serving of (Alexis Gonzalez) and solid defense of Justine (Schepler).”
The Huskies gained the first advantage of the match when kills from Mary Grace Kelly and Sarah Angelos, along with a Kayla Zeno ace, put NIU up, 4-1. EMU quickly got back to a tie, but the Huskies turned a 5-5 deadlock into an 8-5 lead behind a block from MacKenzie Roddy and Jenna Radtke plus a Gonzalez ace.
The NIU defense put the pressure on EMU from there, allowing the Huskies to slowly build a 19-13 lead. Though EMU threatened late, the Huskies closed out the set on a 6-1 run en route to a 25-16 victory.
Looking to rebound, the Eagles came out firing and staked a quick 7-4 lead on the Huskies, which grew to 10-6 following back-to-back NIU attack errors. Yet, three Angelos kills ignited a 5-1 run that knotted the set at 11-all. Both sides traded jabs until, with the score at 15-15, NIU broke away with a 4-0 run to claim a 19-15 lead. However, as the Huskies did to the Eagles earlier, the hosts countered and knotted the match up at 21-21. Well-timed kills from Roddy and Radtke gave NIU set point at 24-22, but EMU quickly erased that lead to force overtime. Emily Paschke broke a 25-25 stalemate with a kill before Angelos went cross-court to give the Huskies a 27-25 set two win.
EMU quickly took NIU’s momentum following halftime by racing out to a 5-1 lead.
That early burst set the tone for the Eagles, who kept the Huskie offense in check for most of the set. After keeping the Eagles within five for most of the first half of the set, the Huskies’ hole grew larger when EMU pushed the lead to 21-11. NIU tried to stage a furious comeback and actually cobbled together a 6-1 run to get within five at 22-17. EMU’s early edge, though, proved to be too much in an eventual 25-17 third set loss.
The Eagles used their momentum from the third set win to take a 7-4 lead early in the fourth. The Huskies summarily took an 8-7 lead off a 4-0 run that was ignited by a Radtke-Gonzalez block. After EMU tied it back up at 8-8, NIU got five-straight points, including back-to-back kills from Paschke. Those two runs put the momentum fully in the Huskies’ corner, as they would coast to a 25-15 set four win and the match victory.
Radtke paced the Huskie offense with 14 spikes and a .444 attack percentage on the night, while Angelos (13) and Kelly (10) also finished in double-digits. Roddy collected 21 digs and Justine Schepler notched 19 in the win.
NIU comes back to DeKalb for their final weekend of the regular season Friday when they host the Ball State Cardinals at 6 p.m.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.