In a meeting between the two MAC West favorites, the Northern Illinois University volleyball team came out on the positive end Saturday by earning a 3-0 sweep of Ball State.
The Huskies (9-7, 2-0 MAC) used a .382 attack percentage, 43 kills and six service aces to overpower the Cardinals (7-8, 0-2 MAC), while holding BSU in check with five blocks. NIU also earned its first 2-0 start to Mid-American Conference play since 2006.
“It was a really positive weekend for the Huskies,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “Did a really good job tonight, again, against a really good Ball State team. It was nice for us to defend home and get a really good team victory. (We) had a lot of contributions from a lot of people tonight. At the end of the day, it’s good for us to be at home and defend home.”
Both sides exchanged points at the outset of the opening set en route to a 9-9 stalemate. A pair of BSU miscues gave the Huskies a two-point edge, which turned out to be enough cushion for NIU to take advantage of. From there, NIU used a 3-0 run capped by an Emily Paschke (Winfield, Ill./West Chicago Community) kill to give the Huskies a 16-11 lead. The Cardinals tried to rally, getting within one at 21-20. Yet, Mackenzie Roddy (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon) denied BSU with a kill, while spikes from Paschke and T’ara Austin (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Central) finished off the Cardinals and gave NIU a 25-21 win in the first.
NIU got the first break of the second set.
Trailing 6-5, Jenna Radtke (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Stevenson) sparked the Huskie 4-0 rally with back-to-back kills, while teaming up with Alexis Gonzalez (Fresno, Calif./Bullard) to help NIU stake out a 9-6 lead. The Huskies were able to keep the Cardinals at bay, extending their margin up to five points midway through the set.
However, much like the first set, the Cardinals rallied late and got within one at 20-19 thanks to a service ace. Clinging to a two-point lead at 22-20, Paschke and Lauren Zielinski (Oak Forest, Ill./Marist) teamed up for a block and gave NIU a big three-point lead. Though BSU made one last push to get within 24-23, Radtke ended the set with a spike to send NIU into halftime with a 25-23 set two win and a two-sets-to-none lead.
Coming out of the intermission, the Huskies set the tone early, using two Roddy kills and a few Cardinal errors to take an early 6-3 lead. Though BSU rebounded and got within one point at 8-7 and 11-10, Roddy carried NIU with five kills in a seven-point stretch that allowed the Huskies to grow the lead to 17-11. The Cardinals got back-to-back points to crawl within four, but NIU ended the threat with an 8-2 run to close out the match with a 25-15 third set triumph. As a team, the Huskies hit .478 in the third along with recording four aces and two blocks to overwhelm the visitors.
Roddy led the way for the Huskies with 15 spikes, while Radtke posted 10 kills and three blocks on the night. Gonzalez notched 33 assists and two aces to go along with Anna Brereton’s (Sun Prairie, Wis./Sun Prairie) three aces.
NIU returns to action Thursday when it hosts Western Michigan in the last of a three-match homestand. First serve is at 7 p.m. in Victor E. Court.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.