The Northern Illinois University volleyball team closed out its California trip Saturday night in Santa Barbara with a 3-1 loss to UC Santa Barbara.
After taking the first set with an impressive offensive showing, the Huskies (7-7) could not contain the Gauchos (5-6) in the ensuing sets, as UCSB finished the night with 69 kills to NIU’s 44.
UCSB grabbed control early with three kills for a 3-1 lead. Mackenzie Roddy (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon) single-handedly tied the set with a kill and an ace, while a Gaucho error put NIU ahead by a 4-3 tally. NIU and UCSB traded points until three-straight from the Gauchos pushed the hosts ahead, 11-8. Two UCSB miscues and a Roddy kill returned things to an 11-11 deadlock. A block from Lauren Zielinski (Oak Forest, Ill./Marist) and Jenna Radtke (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Stevenson) sparked an NIU 4-1 run, though, as the Huskies moved to a 19-15 lead. That proved to be enough for NIU, as they cruised to a 25-20 opening set win.
The Gauchos used a lengthy run to take control of the second set early, as they raced out to a 9-3 lead on the Huskies. UCSB continued to push and got the lead to seven at 13-6. Refusing to give in, NIU put together a 5-0 run highlighted by a Mary Grace Kelly (Strongsville, Ohio/Walsh Jesuit) and Paschke kill.
Spikes from Radtke and Kelly got the Huskies within three at 17-14, but a 5-2 run by UCSB effectively ended the Huskie hopes of completing the comeback and the Gauchos took a 25-21 second set triumph into the half.
The Huskies raced out of halftime and grabbed a 4-0 lead thanks to kills from Roddy and Emily Paschke (Winfield, Ill./West Chicago Community). The NIU offense kept up that pace, as it built up a lead of 8-3. Yet, the Gauchos slowly chipped away at that lead, getting to within 12-11.
The Huskie defense, though, kept UCSB from tying the set, as a Gaucho error and a block from Zielinski and Paschke allowed NIU to regain a three-point lead at 14-11. UCSB quickly tied it at 14-14, only for the Huskies to use a 4-0 run to make it a 19-15 lead. The Gauchos countered with a 5-0 run to take a 20-19 lead, but NIU manage to keep it close and force a 24-24 stalemate. However, UCSB got back-to-back spikes to take a 26-24 set win.
NIU and UCSB exchanged points to open the fourth set to a 4-4 tie. The Gauchos separated themselves from the Huskies courtesy of a 4-1 run to take an 8-5 lead. Kills from Roddy and Zielinski got NIU to within 9-7, but another 4-1 run by UCSB gave the home team a 13-8 lead midway through the set. The Gauchos continued to fire away, maintaining a four- or five-point cushion throughout the middle portion of the set. With the NIU offense unable to find a grove, UCSB coasted to a 25-19 set victory and the win.
Roddy paced the NIU offense with 15 kills and a .255 attack percentage on the night, while Alexis Gonzalez.
The Huskies open Mid-American Conference play next weekend when they host Toledo Friday and Ball State Saturday in Victor E. Court. For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.