The Northern Illinois University volleyball team claimed another big road win Friday by taking down Eastern Michigan, 3-2.
The Huskies (12-7, 5-0 MAC) kept the Eagles’ (11-8, 2-3 MAC) offense in check with a season-best 16 blocks and 83 digs, while benefiting from 33 EMU attack errors.
“This is a match that we don’t over-analyze,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “We are happy with the result. We did play better tonight that at Miami and we needed to. Tomorrow is another big battle, but we all did a great job tonight.”
Neither side was able to pull away early in the first set, as NIU and EMU battled to an 8-8 tie. Yet, the Eagles used two kills and two blocks as part of a 4-1 run to gain some separation en route to a 12-9 lead. Despite the Huskies’ attempts to close the gap, the hosts put together a 4-0 run to widen the margin to 17-11. Undeterred, NIU rallied with four-straight points behind kills from Mackenzie Roddy (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon), T’ara Austin (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Central) and Emily Paschke (Winfield, Ill./West Chicago Community) to move back to within 17-15.
The Huskies forged a tie moments later thanks to a block from Lauren Zielinski (Oak Forest, Ill./Marist) and Jenna Radtke (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Stevenson) and some EMU miscues. While an exchange of points resulted in a 24-24 tie, NIU moved in front with an Eagle error, then claimed a 26-24 win with a block from Roddy, Zielinski and Paschke.
NIU got the first break in the second set. With the score tied at 8-8, spikes from Austin, Radtke and Roddy helped propel the Huskies to a 12-9 lead. Though EMU quickly moved back to within 12-11, an Alexis Gonzalez (Fresno, Calif./Bullard) ace and a Paschke kill helped maintain the NIU lead at 15-14. At that point, the Huskies pulled away with a 9-0 run courtesy of five kills sandwiched around back-to-back blocks from Radtke, Zielinski and Austin to put NIU up comfortably at 24-14. Though the Eagles added a point late, Austin ended the set with a spike to send NIU into the lockers up, 2-0.
Following the intermission, EMU came out on a mission and used a 3-0 run early to build up a 7-4 edge. That early run set the tone for the set, as the Eagles found their rhythm on offense to extend the lead to 15-9. A 6-2 rally by the Huskies capped by an Anna Brereton (Sun Prairie, Wis./Sun Prairie) ace got NIU to within two at 17-15. However, the Eagles regained their offense and pulled away with a 5-1 run to make it a 22-16 deficit for the Huskies, as EMU won the third set, 25-19.
The Huskies looked primed to close out the match in the fourth set, as kills from Radtke and Roddy coupled with two EMU errors put NIU ahead, 5-1. That lead did not last long, though, as the Eagles quickly forged a 7-7 tie. Moments later, the home team moved ahead, 10-8, following a pair of Huskie mistakes, only to have NIU make it a 10-10 stalemate with consecutive points. After trading points to 15-15, the Huskies moved back into the lead with kills from Zielinski and Roddy, along with a block from Zielinski, Shelby Seurer (Delano, Minn./Delano) and Mary Grace Kelly (Strongsville, Ohio/Walsh Jesuit). EMU’s own 4-0 run put them ahead, 19-18, and eventually led to extras, where the Eagles got the last two points for a 26-24 set win to force a fifth set.
With the match on the line, kills from Roddy and Zielinski ignited a 6-2 Huskie run that put NIU in a 7-4 lead. After an EMU timeout, the Eagles moved to within two, but a pair of Austin spikes and back-to-back EMU errors put NIU at an 11-7 lead and forced the Eagles to take their final timeout of the set. EMU got back into the set with a 3-0 run to get within 11-10, but a Seurer kill ended the threat of a tie. From there, the Huskies took control with consecutive kills to end the set for a 15-10 victory.
Roddy led the NIU offense with 23 kills on the night, while Radtke had 12 spikes and eight blocks in the win. Additionally, Austin and Zielinski each posted 10 kills for NIU. Defensively, four Huskies finished with double-digit digs led by Brereton’s 22.
The Huskies continue their Michigan trip tomorrow evening when they face Central Michigan in a 6 p.m. CT first serve.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.