Thanks to an overpowering offense in the first two sets, the Northern Illinois University volleyball team scored a 3-1 win over Toledo Saturday.
The Huskies (18-8, 11-1 MAC) finished the match with 66 kills and a .318 attack percentage against the Rockets (1-24, 0-12 MAC). In addition, NIU recorded a .389 hitting average in sets one, two and four.
“I thought we did a solid job of handling the ball and we knew we wanted to have a stronger start than last night,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “I thought we did that with our service and our tempo with our offense.
“A lot of our solid defense starts with our serve and I thought we put a lot of pressure on them with the serve. I thought we did a good job just putting ourselves in good spots to touch balls with our block.”
NIU raced out of the gates in the first, using kills from Jenna Radtke (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Stevenson) and Mackenzie Roddy (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon) – along with two aces from Alexis Gonzalez (Fresno, Calif./Bullard) – to build a 7-2 lead. The Rockets responded and got back within four, but Radtke and Lauren Zielinski (Oak Forest, Ill./Marist) helped extend the NIU lead to 13-7. For the rest of the set, UT never threatened the Huskie lead as NIU cruised to a 25-21 win in the opening stanza. As a team, the Huskies hit .452 and totaled 18 spikes in the first.
The Huskies built up an early lead again in the second. With the score tied at 3-3, three Zielinski kills fueled a 6-2 run that pushed NIU ahead, 9-5. The Rockets, though, fought back and got within 11-9. Yet, NIU countered with a 4-0 run that included two Roddy spikes and a Zielinski block to make it a 15-9 Huskie lead. Following two UT points, the Huskies put the set out of reach with another 4-0 run, capping it with a block from Shelby Seurer (Delano, Minn./Delano) and Mary Grace Kelly (Strongsville, Ohio/Walsh Jesuit) to go up, 19-11. The Rockets made a late push to get within 22-19, but three Roddy spikes put away UT for a 25-21 victory in the second.
NIU got off to another good start in the third courtesy of a defense that recorded two blocks and forced two other Rocket miscues en route to an 8-4 lead.
The Huskie cushion stood until 12-9, when UT rallied to forge a tie at 13-13 and followed that with a 5-1 run to put the hosts ahead, 18-14. The Rockets pushed their lead to 21-16. However, the Huskies fought back with a 6-1 rally thanks in part to service aces from Radtke and Gonzalez and kills from Roddy and Zielinski. UT, though, got the deciding points, finishing the frame with three-straight points to take a 25-22 win.
“We had to reset ourselves and realize that Toledo will always compete and always fight,” Gooden said. “We had to do the things to be successful on our side, siding out and getting the opportunity to get as many serves as possible. I thought we did a good job of that to rebound in the fourth set.”
The two sides traded points to open the fourth set on the way to a 5-5 deadlock.
NIU broke the stalemate with a Radtke/Kelly block, then scored five of the next six points – including a service ace from Paige Dacanay (Crystal Lake, Ill./Prairie Ridge) to claim a 11-6 advantage. The Huskies continued to hold the Rockets at bay until 15-11, when NIU rattled off six-straight points behind four UT errors and kills from Kelly and Seurer to extend the lead to 21-11. The Huskies held on from there to take a 25-15 fourth set win. NIU hit .452 and notched 16 kills in the frame, while limiting the Rockets to eight spikes and a .077 average.
Roddy led the offense with 22 kills, along with Zielinski registering 14 and Radtke notching 11. Gonzalez dished out 56 assists in the win and had three service aces in the win. Defensively, Kelly, Seurer and Zielinski each posted four blocks, while Anna Brereton (Sun Prairie, Wis./Sun Prairie) and Dacanay each posted 12 digs.
The Huskies return to action next week, splitting time on the road and at home. NIU caps its five-match roadtrip Thursday at 6 p.m. CT at Western Michigan, then returns home Saturday to face Bowling Green at 7 p.m. in a match broadcast nationally on ESPN3.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.