Despite an early deficit, the Northern Illinois University volleyball team claimed a 3-1 victory Saturday over Buffalo.
NIU (15-7, 8-0 MAC) bounced back from a rough first set to post a .299 attack percentage in the final three sets against the Bulls (13-9, 3-5 MAC). The Huskies also held one of the conference’s top offenses in check with 10 blocks and 65 digs.
“Great way to end the homestand,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “Buffalo is well-coached and they’re a team that is going to be on the rise. We knew that they were going to be very physical at the net and their block was a big challenge for us. It was nice for us to just understand and play a solid match against them.
“Overall, good work for our team in general. We need each other every night, not one person. The team depends on the team and the energy of the crowd. The crowd was fantastic this weekend and we really appreciate the support.”
UB rolled out of the gates, using a 6-0 run to stake out an 8-2 lead. The Bulls’ offense kept firing throughout the set, as the visitors built their lead to 17-9 midway through the set. NIU, though, fought back with kills from Mackenzie Roddy (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon), Lauren Zielinski (Oak Forest, Ill./Marist) and T’ara Austin (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Central) – along with an Anna Brereton (Sun Prairie, Wis./Sun Prairie) to get within 19-17.
The Huskies stayed within striking distance and got within 24-23 following a Zielinski/Emily Paschke (Winfield, Ill./West Chicago Community) block. Yet, UB held off the furious Huskie rally with a deciding kill for a 25-23 set one win.
NIU got the first break in the second set, as a kill from Austin and a Bull error put the Huskies up by two at 6-4. The hosts made those consecutive points count, as the Huskies held UB from tying the set and, after a solo block from Jenna Radtke (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Stevenson), held a 16-12 edge and forced the Bulls to burn a timeout. The breather didn’t hurt the NIU momentum, as spikes from Radtke, Roddy and Austin coupled with a Radtke ace put the Huskies in control at 21-14. UB made a late push with a 4-0 rally to get to 22-20, but a Bull service error and a ball handling error put the Huskies at set point. Austin converted for the Huskies, who took a 25-21 victory.
The Bulls stole the Huskie momentum early in the third with a 3-0 run for a 6-3 lead. Spikes from Paschke, Roddy and Austin, though, quickly turned things back in NIU’s favor, as the Huskies moved ahead with a 7-6 advantage. UB countered that with a 6-2 rally that put the Bulls back up by three at 12-9 and eventually 16-13.
Following a timeout, NIU again closed the gap, capping a 3-0 run with a Zielinski/Paschke block. Back-to-back Bull points put UB back in front and, with the score 22-20, the Bulls looked primed to steal the third. However, Paschke and Roddy kills erased that deficit, while a block from Zielinski and Paschke moments later put the Huskies in front, 24-23. Austin ended the set with a cross-court strike to give NIU a 25-23 triumph.
The fourth stanza started almost like the third, as the Bulls staked out a 6-3 lead early. The Huskies methodically chipped away at the gap and drew even at 9-9 thanks to Paschke and Radtke spikes. After UB retook the lead at 12-10, NIU put together a 4-0 rally to reclaim a 14-12 lead. That run set the tone for the rest of the frame, as an Austin kill and a block from Radtke and Austin made it a 17-13 Huskie lead. Though, UB threatened late at 20-18, NIU shut the door with kills from Roddy and Austin en route to a 25-19 win.
Austin set a career-high with 20 spikes on the night, while Roddy and Radtke chipped in 19 and 10, respectively. Brereton tallied 24 digs, while Paschke and Zielinski each registered five blocks.
The Huskies return to the road next weekend with two matches in Ohio. The trip starts Friday at Kent State, then continues Saturday afternoon with a contest against MAC East leader Ohio.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.