Playing in Victor E. Court for the first time in over two weeks, the Northern Illinois University volleyball team scored a hard-fought win Tuesday with a 3-1 triumph over UIC.
The Huskies (7-4) stuffed the Flames’ (4-8) offense, totaling 14 blocks as a team. NIU also tallied seven service aces and held UIC to a .197 attack percentage.
“It was a good team win tonight,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “It’s nice to come back home after being on the road so long. UIC is a really good team and they’re going to do well in the Horizon League. It was nice for us to get ourselves settled in. We played really well for awhile, then UIC played a little harder than we did. It was good for our group to come back.”
The Huskies and Flames traded points to start the first set, as neither side could gain more than a one-point lead. NIU, though, used a combo block from Jenna Radtke (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Stevenson) and Alexis Gonzalez (Fresno, Calif./Bullard) as part of a 6-1 run to turn an 12-11 deficit into a 17-13 advantage.
Three kills from Mackenzie Roddy (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon), along with an ace from Gonzalez and a block from Emily Paschke (Winfield, Ill./West Chicago Community) and Lauren Zielinski (Oak Forest, Ill./Marist), extended the Huskie lead to 22-15. UIC made a push late with three-straight points, but NIU coasted to a 25-18 set win.
The in-state rivals again opened the second set in a virtual deadlock until a UIC error and a T’ara Austin (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Central) ace pushed the Huskies to an 11-9 lead. Spikes from Zielinski and Mary Grace Kelly (Strongsville, Ohio/Walsh Jesuit) helped push that margin to 16-13. Yet, the Flames burned the Huskies with a 4-0 run to take a 17-16 lead. Though NIU came back to tie the match at 17-17, two UIC kills and an NIU attack error gave the Flames a 21-18 lead, which proved to be enough for them to take a 25-22 set win.
NIU broke out in front in the third set, as a 3-0 run pushed the Huskies to a 6-3 lead – only to have UIC come back with three-straight to tie it at 6-6. Spikes from Zielinski, Kelly and Shelby Seurer (Delano, Minn./Delano) pushed the Huskies to a 9-7 lead, but the Flames again came back and eventually claimed an 11-10 lead. A four-point rally returned the lead to NIU, but UIC again tied the set at 16-16. The fourth time, though, NIU made their lead count, as kills from Kelly and Seurer pushed the Huskies to a 19-16 lead they would never relinquish en route to a 25-19 set win.
Up two sets to one, the Huskies quickly extinguished the Flames’ chances for a rally, as a 7-1 run that included a pair of Paige Dacanay (Crystal Lake, Ill./Prairie Ridge) aces gave NIU a 10-4 lead. UIC tried to muster a rally, but a 5-1 run later in the set gave the Huskies enough distance to coast to a decisive 25-17 fourth-set victory. The NIU defense practically shut down UIC’s attack in the fourth, holding the Flames to a .048 hitting average and posting six blocks.
Roddy led the Huskies with 14 kills on the night, while Zielinski and Kelly each posted 10 spikes in the win. On defense, Zielinski and Paschke each totaled six blocks and Anna Brereton (Sun Prairie, Wis./Sun Prairie) notched 18 digs.
The Huskies cap their non-conference slate this weekend when they head to California to face Cal Poly, Santa Clara and UC Santa Barbara in the UCSB/Cal Poly Invitational.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.