Volleyball grounds Rockets with 3-0 sweep

Alexis Gonzalez
Alexis Gonzalez

The NIU volleyball team opened its Mid-American Conference schedule with a resounding win Friday, topping Toledo with a 3-0 sweep.

The Huskies (8-7, 1-0 MAC) held the Rockets’ (1-13, 0-1 MAC) offense in check throughout the night, posting nine blocks and holding UT to a .067 attack percentage. The victory also extended NIU’s home-winning streak over the Rockets to nine wins.

“It was a real good team win tonight, starting off the MAC season in ways we know we could play,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden.

“I thought we did a good job against a young Toledo team that is going to continue to improve. We did a good job serving and our offense put in a good team effort. We did a lot of good team things tonight.”

Toledo got out to a quick 3-1 lead, but NIU – courtesy of kills from Mackenzie Roddy (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon), Lauren Zielinski (Oak Forest, Ill./Marist) and Emily Paschke (Winfield, Ill./West Chicago Community) – countered and claimed an 8-4 edge. The Rockets came back with a 4-0 run to tie the set, resulting in a back-and-forth until 11-11.

That’s when NIU began to pull away, staking out a 15-12 lead thanks to some UT miscues. Though the Rockets got to within one, the Huskies pulled away with a 6-0 rally that was keyed by blocks from T’ara Austin (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Central), Paschke and Zielinski, allowing NIU to take a 25-17 first set win.

Emily Paschke
Emily Paschke

NIU gained the early advantage at 3-1 in the second set, but the Rockets came back to knot the set at 3-3 and used that momentum to make it a 7-5 UT lead. The Huskies quickly erased that lead and, by virtue or a 6-0 run, made it a 14-9 lead midway through the set. NIU used a 4-0 run later on in the set, which included two spikes from Zielinski, to widen the gap further at 21-13 to allow the Huskies to coast to a 25-18 second set win.

If there was any chance of a Rocket comeback, the Huskies quickly extinguished those hopes early in the third by racing out to a 4-0 lead sparked by a set-opening ace from Austin and a block from Alexis Gonzalez (Fresno, Calif./Bullard) and Jenna Radtke (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Stevenson). Though UT slowly crawled back to within two at 9-7, NIU again pulled away courtesy of a 5-0 run to expand the lead to 14-7. Fittingly, the Huskies ended the set on a 5-0 run, clinching an impressive 25-13 win in the third. NIU’s defense handled the Rockets by limiting them to a -.088 attack percentage in the set and forcing 11 attack errors.

Roddy led the NIU offense with nine kills on the night, followed by Austin’s eight spikes that tied a career high. Meanwhile, Gonzalez finished the night with 26 assists and 11 digs for a double-double – her fourth of the season. On defense, Anna Brereton (Sun Prairie, Wis./Sun Prairie) notched 13 digs and Radtke posted six blocks.

The Huskies cap their MAC-opening weekend tonight when they host the Ball State Cardinals at 7 p.m. in Victor E. Court. For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.

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