The Northern Illinois University volleyball team opened the Iowa State Challenge in a big way Friday with a 3-0 sweep of Southeastern Conference foe Tennessee.
The Huskies (2-2) dominated at the service line, posting 10 service aces against the Lady Volunteers (2-2). The mark set a school record for the most aces in a three-set sweep and is tied for the fourth-most in any match in program history.
“It was a real positive win in our first match,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “It was great to play a team from another big conference. Our strengths of serving and passing really came through today and we had a real good team effort.”
The Lady Volunteers controlled the pace early and moved out to a 15-9 advantage.
However, Anna Brereton’s (Sun Prairie, Wis./Sun Prairie) precise serving combined with some Lady Vol ball handling errors got NIU within one at 15-14. The Huskies stayed within striking distance, eventually tying the match at 18-18 with kills from Alexis Gonzalez (Fresno, Calif./Bullard) and Jenna Radtke (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Stevenson). The two sides exchanged points until 25-25, when Mackenzie Roddy (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon) and Radtke got back-to-back kills to put away UT in the first.
NIU kept that momentum going into the second, running out to a 7-2 lead courtesy of two Brereton aces, along with a kill and block solo from Lauren Zielinski (Oak Forest, Ill./Marist).
The Huskies, though, gave UT not hope of a comeback, unleashing an offensive barrage that the Lady Vols had no answer for. In the end, NIU emerged with a 25-10 set win in which they hit .611 and posted seven service aces.
Tennessee took the early advantage in the third, using a 3-0 run to stake out a 7-4 lead. Yet, the Huskies countered with a 5-0 run behind three-straight Roddy kills and a T’ara Austin (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Central) ace. After the Lady Vols tied it again at 9-9, the Huskies moved ahead for good with a Radtke-Gonzalez combo block and an Austin kill. Those points sparked an extended 15-7 run that put NIU at match point at 24-16. Despite allowing UT to get four-straight points, Shelby Seurer (Delano, Minn./Delano) gave NIU the winning points to clinch the sweep.
Roddy paced the NIU offense with 15 kills and a .483 hitting percentage, while Gonzalez posted 37 assists. On defense, Brereton and Paige Dacanay (Crystal Lake, Ill./Prairie Ridge) combined for 25 digs in the match.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.