The Northern Illinois University volleyball team picked up another road conference victory Friday with a 3-1 victory at Kent State.
The Huskies (16-7, 9-0 MAC) finished the night with a .307 attack percentage and had three individuals with double-digit kills against the Golden Flashes (11-11, 3-6 MAC). With the win, NIU also moved to 9-0 in the Mid-American Conference, making it the best start for the Huskies in the MAC in program history.
“The big thing is that we recovered from situations that may have put us in a tough spot,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “Credit Kent for playing really hard, really well against us. We started out slow, but we did a good job of recovering.”
The first set was a tight one, as neither side could extend beyond a two-point lead.
KSU used a 3-0 run to turn a 6-5 deficit into an 8-6 lead, but kills from Jenna Radtke (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Stevenson) and Mackenzie Roddy (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon) closed it back to an 8-8 deadlock. Another 3-0 rally put the Golden Flashes ahead, 14-11, only for the Huskies to use two KSU errors and an Anna Brereton (Sun Prairie, Wis./Sun Prairie) ace to draw even again. NIU’s big break came at 17-16 KSU when a Radtke spike sparked a 7-2 run that included two Radtke/Roddy blocks to put the Huskies ahead, 23-19. Emily Paschke (Winfield, Ill./West Chicago Community) ended the set with a kill to give NIU a 25-20 win.
Conversely, the Huskies decided things early in the second set. Thanks to three Roddy kills and an Alexis Gonzalez (Fresno, Calif./Bullard) ace, NIU raced out to a 6-2 lead. Two more Roddy spikes extended the lead to 8-3, while the Huskie defense held the Golden Flashes at bay by forcing six attack errors. Lauren Zielinski (Oak Forest, Ill./Marist) put the set out of reach for KSU with back-to-back kills, while kills from T’ara Austin (Joliet, Ill./Joliet Central), Radtke and Roddy coupled with a Radtke/Gonzalez block clinched a 25-16 victory for the Huskies heading into the intermission.
The Golden Flashes fired away to open the third set, holding leads of 3-0 and 5-1 at the outset. Yet NIU battled back, using three KSU errors and a Radtke kill to move ahead, 10-9.
After the Golden Flashes got back to a tie at 12-12, a block by Roddy and Paschke kicked off a 4-1 run that put the Huskies at a 16-13 advantage. Three quick points put KSU back at a 16-16 deadlock, but NIU reclaimed the lead with a kill from Radtke and a combo block from Gonzalez and Radtke to take a 21-19 edge. The hosts countered with a 3-0 run to move ahead, 22-21, only for Shelby Seurer (Delano, Minn./Delano) to force extras with a kill. NIU held match point at 26-25, but KSU battled back and took a 31-29 win in the third.
NIU didn’t let the tough loss in the third hurt them, using a Zielinski kill, a Gonzalez ace and a few KSU errors to grab a 10-4 lead. Moments later, a Radtke solo block capped a 5-1 stretch for the Huskies and forced the Golden Flashes to burn their second timeout of the half. From that point on, NIU coasted to a 25-19 win in the fourth to take the win.
“We were serving the ball well,” Gooden said. “Our serve puts us in situations where we can have positive results. On the whole, Kent’s a really good serve-receive team. I thought we did a good job of taking them out of their offense. Our blocking and transition helped us score points in critical situations.”
Roddy led the Huskies with 22 kills on the night, while Radtke added 14 spikes and five blocks and Zielinski tallied 12 kills. Gonzalez dished out 48 assists in the win and Brereton had 24 digs.
The Huskies head south today to Athens, where they will face MAC East leader Ohio in a battle of division frontrunners and squads with perfect conference records. First serve is set for 4 p.m. CT.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.