The Huskies (16-8, 9-1 MAC) limited the high-powered Bobcat (17-4, 10-0 MAC) attack to a .268 attack percentage and forced eight service errors, but Ohio’s defense conversely kept NIU in check en route to a sweep. The loss is NIU’s first in over a month and snaps a nine-match winning streak.
“An understanding that we still have a ways to improve,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden on takeaways from the loss. “We’ve done some really good things up to this point. To play at a championship level, we have to keep improving and we have to get refocused. Credit to those guys. They did a great job defending their home court. We have to get ready for the second half of our division and we have to play at a high level in order to be successful.”
The Huskies got off to a good start, using an Ohio error and an Emily Paschke (Winfield, Ill./West Chicago Community) kill to claim a quick 2-0 lead. The Bobcats, though, cobbled together a 4-0 run thanks to a kill, block, ace and an NIU miscue for a 4-2 edge. Moments later, Ohio blew open the frame with a 12-3 stretch that put the Huskies down eight at 17-6. NIU got a spike from Mary Grace Kelly (Strongsville, Ohio/Walsh Jesuit) and a block from Jenna Radtke (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Stevenson) and Alexis Gonzalez (Fresno, Calif./Bullard) late, opening an 8-3 run for the Huskies. However, Ohio held on for a 25-17 set one win.
NIU fell into an early hole to start the second with Ohio starting the stanza with a 14-6 lead.
Undeterred, the Huskies rallied with three consecutive kills from Mackenzie Roddy (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon) to get within 14-10. NIU kept chipping away at the lead with Lauren Zielinski (Oaf Forest, Ill./Marist) and Kelly kills – coupled with two Bobcat errors – to move within one at 18-17. Kelly and Roddy closed the gap with kills, knotting the set at 20-20. Yet, the Bobcats used three-straight spikes and came away with a 25-22 win in the second.
Needing a comeback, the Huskies put together a 4-1 lead thanks to Radtke, Paschke and Zielinski spikes.
Ohio, though, turned the set in its favor behind five kills to take a 7-6 lead. Kelly returned the set to a 7-7 tie with a spike, but the Bobcats’ 6-2 run moments later broke things open at 13-9. NIU used some sloppy play by Ohio and kills from Shelby Seurer (Delano, Minn./Delano) and Roddy to keep things interesting, but the Bobcats ultimately won the third, 25-17. The Huskies got into more of a rhythm offensively in the third with a .226 attack percentage, but Ohio’s .469 average proved to be the difference.
Roddy paced NIU with 11 kills and three blocks, while Zielinski and Kelly both chipped in seven spikes in the loss. Anna Brereton (Sun Prairie, Wis./Sun Prairie) and Paige Dacanay (Crystal Lake, Ill./Prairie Ridge) added 12 and 11 digs, respectively.
NIU’s road swing continues next weekend with matches at Ball State and Toledo. The Huskies face the Cardinals at 6 p.m. Friday and then take on the Rockets at 4 p.m. Saturday. Both times are Central.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.