The Northern Illinois University volleyball team saw their dreams of a Mid-American Conference championship dashed Saturday at the SPIRE Institute when the top-seeded Ohio Bobcats defeated the Huskies, 3-0.
NIU (19-13) kept the Ohio (26-4) offense in check for a good portion of the match, notching 61 digs and eight blocks. Yet, it was not enough for the Huskies to pull off the upset.
“When you get to this point in the season, it’s all about making plays and sometimes the ball bounces your way and sometimes it doesn’t,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden.
“For as much as it did yesterday, it didn’t today. We had opportunities. Credit Ohio (because) they’re the No. 1 seed for a reason. They played extremely well, but we forced them to make plays to be successful.”
MacKenzie Roddy led the Huskie offense with 12 kills on the day, while Sarah Angelos scored nine spikes. Fellow senior Justine Schepler notched a match-high 25 digs and Jenna Radtke posted four blocks in the loss. The match marks the final one for Angelos and Schepler, along with Kayla Zeno and Tori Halbur.
“I’m incredibly proud of those guys because I think they we’re playing their best volleyball,” Gooden said. “Tori, Kayla, Justine and Sarah really helped our team get to this point and, without their leadership, it wouldn’t be this way.”
In the battle of the two highest remaining seeds in the tournament, Ohio got out to an early 8-5 lead, only for the Huskies to come back and tie the set at 9-9 following kills from Roddy and Radtke, coupled with a Roddy ace. A 6-1 run gave the Bobcats an 18-13 lead and plenty of momentum. However, NIU came back and scored eight of the next 10 points – capped by an Emily Paschke kill – to take a late 21-20 lead. Ohio, though, closed out the Huskies with a 5-1 run to win the opening set, 25-22.
The Huskies denied the Bobcats the early edge in the second set, keeping things tied at 7-7.
However, Ohio broke the deadlock with a big 13-7 run to grab a 20-14 lead. NIU battled back, scoring eight of the next 11 points behind a stout defense that forced five Bobcat errors to claw to within one point at 23-22, pulling all the momentum to their side in the process. Yet, the Bobcats closed the door on the Huskies with back-to-back kills to score a 25-22 second set win.
With their proverbial backs against the wall, NIU fired away at the Ohio defense and built an early 8-3 lead thanks to runs of 5-0 and 3-0. The Bobcats quickly closed that gap with an 8-1 run of their own to move ahead, 11-9. What ensued was a hard-fought back-and-forth affair that eventually resulted in a 19-19 deadlock. The Huskies broke the tie with a Paschke kill and a Radtke solo block. However, the Bobcats bounced back to tie the match back up and, with the set tied at 23-23, got a block and a kill to take the sweep.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.