The Northern Illinois University volleyball team earned a big divisional victory Thursday at Victor E. Court with a 3-1 victory over Western Michigan.
The Huskies (10-7, 3-0 MAC) held the Broncos’ conference-leading offense to a .191 attack percentage and 47 kills, while recording eight blocks and 55 digs in the win.
“It was a real positive win tonight,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “Western is always a great team and we always have great battles. It was nice for us to have a really good start against them. I think we did a good job to put them under pressure and change up our look a little bit. It helped us out in the first two sets and we realized how these matches, especially in the division, are tough and long-lasting.”
WMU got the early edge in the first set, holding leads of 3-1 and 5-3. However, the Huskies countered and forged an 8-8 tie. NIU took care of that deadlock by embarking on a 6-0 run, courtesy of kills from Alexis Gonzalez (Fresno, Calif./Bullard) and Mackenzie Roddy (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon) and a block from Roddy and Jenna Radtke (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Stevenson) to take a 14-8 lead.
The Broncos threatened to close the gap, getting as close as three points late at 20-17. Yet, Radtke’s solo block closed the door on the WMU rally, as the Huskies closed out the Broncos and took a 25-18 win in the first.
NIU stormed out in the second set, using a pair of Radtke kills, a Gonzalez spike and a T’ara Austin (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Central) ace to claim a 5-0 lead. That advantage grew to eight at 12-4, as the Huskies continued to fire away at WMU’s defense. The Broncos, though, made things interesting midway through the set with a 6-1 run to get within 13-10. NIU kept WMU at bay with kills from Austin, Radtke, Roddy and Emily Paschke (Winfield, Ill./West Chicago Community), extending the Huskie lead back to 19-13. Not to be deterred, the Broncos rallied to get within 23-21, but an Austin kill and a WMU error ended the threat and gave NIU a 25-22 second set win.
The Huskies carried their momentum from the second set into the third, when spikes from Roddy, Paschke and Gonzalez allowed NIU to take another 5-0 lead. Yet, WMU quickly countered and forced a 7-7 tie following some Huskie errors. The Broncos moved ahead with a crippling 7-0 run that included four WMU blocks, giving the visitors a big 15-8 lead. That extended rally was enough for the Broncos for them to coast to a 25-15 third set victory.
Things didn’t look promising for the Huskies at the onset of the fourth set, as WMU took a 5-2 lead early.
Undeterred, NIU fought back, using spikes from Roddy, Paschke and Lauren Zielinski (Oak Forest, Ill./Marist) to make it an 8-8 stalemate. The Broncos reclaimed the lead with a 4-1 run to make it a 12-9 deficit, but the Huskies again came back and slowly turned the three-point hole into a 17-16 advantage behind two kills each from Radtke and Roddy, along with a Gonzalez ace. Though WMU got back to a 17-17 tie, an Austin spike sparked a 5-0 Huskie run that put NIU up for good at 22-17 en route to a 25-20 set win.
Roddy led the Huskies with 14 kills, 14 digs and six blocks on the night. NIU also got 13 spikes from Radtke and a career-high 12 kills from Austin, while Gonzalez recorded 42 assists in the win.
“It’s nice for us to defend home,” Gooden said. “Now we take our show on the road and play against a really good Miami team this weekend.”
The Huskies get their first road match of the MAC season Saturday against Miami (Ohio). The match between NIU and MU is slated for a 6 p.m. CT first serve.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.