The NIU volleyball team led 8-2 in the fifth set, but was unable to hold off a late surge by Colorado, falling to the Buffaloes in five sets, 26-28, 25-18, 25-20, 21-25, 15-12, on Saturday afternoon in the NIU Invitational.
Senior outside hitter Mackenzie Roddy (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon) led the way for NIU with 29 kills and 16 digs.
“A couple plays made the difference,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden.
“Colorado is a great program in one of the best conferences in the country. It was great battling back and forth. We saw them the night before against Northwestern and thought we had a good chance of competing with them. I thought our team did some really good things at times, but we had some good lessons learned in what was a painful loss.”
NIU took the first set, using a .270 hitting percentage to gain the early advantage in the match.
An ace by sophomore Lauren Zielinski (Oak Forest, Ill./Marist) gave the Huskies a five-point edge, 14-9, before Colorado responded with the next five to even the set. The Huskies held a slim lead for most of the remainder of the set, earning a set point at 24-21. The Buffaloes held off NIU and earned a set point of their own, 26-25, but a kill by Zielinski and back-to-back errors by Colorado gave NIU the first set, 28-26.
Colorado responded by taking the second and third sets. The Buffaloes hit .276 in the second, holding the Huskies to just a .094 hitting percentage. Colorado built a six-point lead, 14-8, before the Huskies fought back to trim the CU advantage to just one, 16-15. The Buffaloes answered with five of the next six points and went on to win the second set, 25-18.
In the third, NIU took an early 11-5 lead as a kill by Roddy gave the Huskies the six-point edge. Colorado used an 11-5 run to pull the set back even, 16-16. The Buffaloes continued their momentum, scoring four of the next five to take a 20-17 advantage. Back-to-back kills by Roddy helped the Huskies get back within one, 21-20, before four consecutive kills for Colorado’s Taylor Simpson gave the set to the Buffaloes, 25-20.
NIU evened the match with a red-hot .343 hitting percentage in the fourth set, including .429 and seven kills from Roddy. Tied at 11, the Huskies scored three-straight with a kill from Roddy, an attack error by Colorado and an ace by sophomore Paige Dacanay (Crystal Lake, Ill./Prairie Ridge). NIU still led by three, 20-17, before a Colorado error and a kill by sophomore Jenna Radtke (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Stevenson) push the Huskie lead to five. The Buffaloes climbed back within three but a kill from Roddy finished the set, 25-21.
The Huskies jumped out to an 8-2 lead in the fifth set, but Colorado responded with the next six points to even the final set, 8-8. NIU and Colorado traded points to 12-12 until a pair of Huskie errors, followed by an ace from Stephanie Shadley gave the Buffaloes a 15-12 fifth-set win.
The Huskies will return to action tonight when they finish play in the NIU Invitational against Northwestern at 7 p.m.
“We still have a chance to play for a championship tonight,” Gooden said. “Northwestern is undefeated in this tournament, and if we can play our best tonight then we’ll have a really good chance of being successful.”
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.