The Northern Illinois University volleyball team nearly came back from a 2-0 deficit Friday at the Mott Athletics Center, but ultimately suffered a 3-1 loss to Cal Poly.
The Mustangs (5-4) held the Huskies (7-5) to a .158 attack percentage in the defeat, while holding a 59-48 advantage in kills.
“In the first set, there were probably three runs that determined the set,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “Even with that, we had an opportunity to tie it up at 24, but they were able to make a good play to pull it out. In the second set, I thought we played a much more solid volleyball game. We had a chance to win it, but we weren’t able to finish the set.
“Set three, we were able to turn those plays and have the control we were looking for. We did the same thing for a stretch (in the fourth set), but they made a run back at us and that ended up proving to be the difference.”
The Huskies moved out front early in the first set, turning kills from Mackenzie Roddy (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon) and Mary Grace Kelly (Strongsville, Ohio/Walsh Jesuit) into a 3-1 lead. Cal Poly hung with NIU, not allowing the Huskies a lead larger than two points and quickly tying things at 7-7. As both sides traded points, the Mustangs made their big move with a 5-0 run to move ahead, 15-11. Three-straight points from the Huskies got them within 15-14, but Cal Poly again pushed its lead to five at 20-15. After the Mustangs got to set point at 24-19, NIU made a final rally with four-straight points – including two blocks from Lauren Zielinski (Oak Forest, Ill./Marist) – to get within 24-23. Yet, Cal Poly got the final point and escaped with a 25-23 set one win.
NIU again started with a 3-1 lead in the second, this time courtesy of a pair of Roddy kills.
A 4-0 rally quickly put the Mustangs in front at 5-3, only for the Huskies to counter with kills from Kelly and some Mustang miscues to move ahead, 8-6. NIU kept the pressure on and extended its margin to 16-12. Cal Poly methodically chipped away at the lead and forced a 17-17 stalemate. A Paige Dacanay (Crystal Lake, Ill./Prairie Ridge) ace and a block from Jenna Radtke (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Stevenson) and Zielinski sparked a 3-0 Huskie run, allowing NIU to build a 23-19 lead. Cal Poly rallied to get within one, only for Roddy to give the Huskies set point with a kill. That spike did little to stop the Mustangs, as the hosts forced the set into extras and eventually claimed a 28-26 set win.
Neither side could break away in the third set, as the Huskies and Mustangs dueled to a 13-13 deadlock. Cal Poly made the first move with back-to-back blocks to make it a 15-13 score. However, Roddy played hero with a kill and a combo block with Emily Paschke (Winfield, Ill./West Chicago Community) to push the Huskies to a 16-16 tie. Back-to-back kills from Paschke and Roddy put the Huskies ahead, 18-16, and sparked NIU to close out the set with a 25-20 win. Integral to the set victory, though, was the Huskie defense, which compiled four blocks in the set and limited Cal Poly to a .162 attack percentage.
Cal Poly moved out to a 3-1 lead in the fourth, but a kill from Kelly and three-straight aces from Roddy vaulted NIU to a 6-3 lead. Some Huskie errors got the Mustangs back to a 6-6 tie and an eventual 9-8 lead. NIU retaliated with kills from Radtke and Kelly to reclaim a 12-9 lead.
The Huskie offense extended that lead to five at 15-10, but Cal Poly put together a lengthy 9-2 run to turn a five-point NIU lead to a two-point deficit. The Mustang rally proved to be too much to overcome, as Cal Poly used that shift in momentum to take a 25-21 set win.
“We play these teams because we know, in order to be successful, we have to do it well all the time,” Gooden said. “They’re going to give us very few points and opportunities to earn those points. These are the things that we want to take moving forward. To be one of the teams considered one of the teams on the national scene, we have to play at that level on a regular basis.”
Roddy led the Huskies with 14 kills on the night, while Kelly tallied 11 spikes in the loss. Alexis Gonzalez (Fresno, Calif./Bullard) posted 21 digs and Anna Brereton (Sun Prairie, Wis./Sun Prairie) registered 17, while Paschke, Radtke and Zielinski each recorded four block assists.
The Huskies head south to Santa Barbara, Calif., today to face Santa Clara in a noon CT first serve. NIU caps the day at 9 p.m. CT against UC Santa Barbara.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.