The Northern Illinois University volleyball team suffered a tough loss Friday night in Victor E. Court, falling 3-0 to the Ball State Cardinals.
The defeat ends NIU’s (17-12, 9-6 MAC) chances of claiming a share of the MAC West Division, as the BSU (23-7, 11-4 MAC) silenced a Huskie offense that had been hot as of late. Conversely, the Huskies allowed the Cardinals to hit .307 against them, which is the second-highest attack percentage against the NIU defense all season.
“Tonight was a good reminder of how important it is to stay consistent and play hard in our league, especially in our division,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “Ball State really brought it tonight against us and the unfortunate thing is that we played hard, but we were just a step behind in all phases. It’s the first time we’ve lost in awhile and I hope it is a good reminder for us to stay on track.”
The Huskies got off to a good start in the match, building an 8-4 lead on BSU early in the first set. However, the Cardinals got back into the set with an extended 8-2 run – including five consecutive points and one juncture – to move ahead, 12-10. NIU tied it back up with a MacKenzie Roddy kill preceding an ace from Kayla Zeno. At 13-13, though, BSU broke away courtesy of an 8-3 run that gave the Cardinals a 21-16 edge. Kills from Jenna Radtke and Mary Grace Kelly, along with a Cardinal mishap, got the Huskies back to within two at 21-19, only to have the visitors finish the set on a 4-0 run to claim a 25-19 win in the opening stanza.
Neither side was able to gain an early advantage in the second set, as both sides hit over .500 in the first 17 points. After Sarah Angelos gave the Huskies a 9-8 lead, BSU again went on an extended run, this time with a 10-1 streak that put NIU in an 18-10 deficit. At that point, the Cardinals were able to coast to a 25-17 set two win and put the Huskies down 2-0 at the intermission.
Facing an uphill climb, the NIU offense got a slight jolt to start the third set with a 4-0 run to make it a 4-2 advantage. The Huskies kept the Cardinals at bay until, yet again, BSU took momentum away from NIU with a big run, as they turned a 7-5 Huskie lead into a 15-9 Cardinal edge.
Refusing to fall easily, NIU fought back and tied the set at 17-17, thanks in small part to two spikes each from Angelos and Roddy. Three-straight points from the Cardinals gave them the lead at 20-17, but a pair of kills from Radtke helped launch the Huskies back to within 22-21 and give NIU a chance to turn the tide. Yet, three consecutive kills from BSU’s Lauren Grant ended the Huskie hopes and gave the Cardinals the 25-21 third set triumph.
Roddy led NIU with 10 kills and 10 digs on the night. Meanwhile, Angelos chipped in eight kills and the freshman duo of Radtke and Kelly each had six. Defensively, Justine Schepler compiled 10 digs and Alexis Gonzalez recorded nine.
The Huskies close out their regular season at 6 p.m. today when they host to Toledo Rockets – who clinched the MAC West Division Friday – on Senior Night. Prior to the match, Angelos, Tori Halbur, Schepler and Zeno will be honored for their contributions to the program.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.