The Northern Illinois University volleyball team celebrated Senior Night Saturday, but it was Eastern Michigan who spoiled the festivities by dealing the Huskies a 3-2 loss.
In the final home match for Mackenzie Roddy (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon) and Emily Paschke (Winfield, Ill./West Chicago Community), NIU (21-9, 14-2 MAC) was limited offensively to a .191 attack percentage and one service ace by the Eagles (18-12, 9-7 MAC). It was also the first home loss for the Huskies since Aug. 30.
“It was a tough one tonight against a team we know battles a lot in Eastern,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden. “Credit to them, they did a great job just as the last time we played them in Ypsilanti. The lessons learned now will help us in the MAC Tournament. IT’s going to be a battle there all next week.”
Things went the Huskies’ way at the start, as three Roddy kills and a Shelby Seurer (Delano, Minn./Delano)/Roddy block put NIU out to a 4-1 lead. Yet, EMU answered back with a 7-2 run and move ahead, 8-6. Spikes from Lauren Zielinski (Oak Forest, Ill./Marist), Paschke and Mary Grace Kelly (Strongsville, Ohio/Walsh Jesuit) got NIU within 11-10, but a 6-1 stretch from the Eagles pushed the visitors’ advantage to 17-11 as they cruised to a 25-14 victory in the opening stanza.
The bad luck for NIU continued in the second set when the Eagles flew out to a 9-5 lead. Seurer, Roddy and Paschke helped the Huskies claw back to within two at 11-9, only for EMU to counter with a 4-1 run of their own for a 15-10 lead at the media timeout. Despite an Anna Brereton (Sun Prairie, Wis./Sun Prairie) ace to put the deficit at 15-12, the Huskies could only trade points with the Eagles, who closed the frame on a 7-1 run to claim a 25-16 win and a 2-0 lead at the intermission.
The Huskies embarked on the comeback trail early in the third set, using kills from Jenna Radtke (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Stevenson), Roddy and Alexis Gonzalez (Fresno, Calif./BullarD) coupled with a block by Gonzalez and Radtke to stake a quick 6-1 lead. EMU was able to cut the lead down to three at 9-6, but NIU’s newfound offensive momentum kept the Eagles at bay.
With the score 18-15, Radtke scored on back-to-back kills to help extend the lead to 21-15 en route to a 25-19 third set victory.
The fourth set got off to a similar start for NIU with a fast 8-4 lead thanks to spikes from four different Huskies and a resounding block solo from Radtke. The Huskies fed off that momentum and pieced together a big 8-1 run for a 17-7 lead, as NIU used five kills and two blocks to take a commanding lead in the frame. That proved to be more than enough, as the Huskies took a 25-18 fourth set win to force a fifth set. Between the third and fourth sets, the Huskies totaled 37 kills and a .363 attack percentage.
EMU, though, bounced back in the fifth set with a 7-2 run to seize control of the stanza. Yet, blocks from Seurer and Zielinski helped get NIU back within 7-5, while consecutive spikes from Kelly closed the gap to 8-7. That was all the closer the Huskies got, as the Eagles got a 3-1 run to again break open the set at 12-9. Undeterred, Roddy scored a kill, then teamed up with Seurer for a block to trim the EMU lead to one. However, the Eagles scored the final three points to score a 15-11 win.
Roddy led the Huskies with 26 kills on the night, while Gonzalez finished with 53 assists. Defensively, Seurer had six blocks and three Huskies posted double-digit digs, led by Brereton’s 23.
NIU enters postseason play next weekend with the MAC Tournament. The Huskies head to Athens, Ohio, as the tournament’s No. 2 seed and will play No. 3 Miami, No. 6 EMU or No. 7 Kent State Sunday.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.