Despite a gutsy rally from a 2-0 hole, the Northern Illinois University volleyball team saw its season come to an end Sunday night with a 3-2 loss to third seed Miami (Ohio) in the Mid-American Conference Tournament semifinals.
After the RedHawks (21-9, 12-4 MAC) won the first two frames and had plenty of momentum both offensively and defensively, the Huskies (21-10, 14-2 MAC) put together a valiant rally, winning the third and fourth sets by identical 25-23 scores before dropping the final set, 19-17.
“I think always at this level with these teams, it’s always down to a few plays here and there,” said NIU head coach Ray Gooden.
“We didn’t make those plays in the first two sets, but we made those plays in sets three and four and in chunks of five. Some sports play for the full 60 minutes and we have to do it the full way in our sport. You have to be proud of what our team was able to do, battling back after being down 2-0 with a chance to win in the fifth.”
NIU raced out to a 5-1 lead in the first, as a Paige Dacanay (Crystal Lake, Ill./Prairie Ridge) ace and kills from Jenna Radtke (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Stevenson) and Mackenzie Roddy (San Bernardino, Calif./Cajon) gave the Huskies a quick lead. Miami battled back to within one at 8-7, but two kills from Mary Grace Kelly (Strongsville, Ohio/Walsh Jesuit) put the Huskies’ edge back to 12-9. Moments later, the RedHawks rallied with a 6-0 stretch to claim a 19-15 advantage. The Huskies fought back to 22-21, but Miami held on for a 25-22 win in the opening frame.
Miami got the first break in the second set with three kills and an ace to grab a 5-2 lead. Radtke and Kelly spikes help get the Huskies to 9-7, only for the RedHawks to counter with a 6-1 run and seize control of the set at 15-8. That second stretch proved to be enough for the Miami to earn a 25-18 victory and take a two-sets-to-none lead into the break. In the stanza, the RedHawks netted 20 kills and a .543 attack percentage against the Huskie defense.
Out of the intermission, NIU grabbed some momentum and a 6-3 lead, opening the third with a Radtke/Roddy combo block and following that up with an Alexis Gonzalez (Fresno, Calif./Bullard) ace. Yet, the RedHawks again rallied and knotted things up at 8-8, then using a 3-0 run to seize a 14-11 advantage.
The Huskies rallied and tied the frame at 15-15 thanks to two kills from Brianna Horwath (Stillwater, Minn./Stillwater Area). Two more Horwath spikes kept NIU at a 17-17 stalemate.
A kill and an ace put Miami ahead, 19-17, but the Huskies came back with a Horwath kill and a Shelby Seurer (Delano, Minn./Delano) block to bring it back to a 22-22 tie. The Huskies closed out the set with a Horwath kill and an Anna Brereton (Sun Prairie, Wis./Sun Prairie) ace to claim a 25-23 triumph.
The two sides traded points to start the fourth before the RedHawks used a 4-1 run to move out to an 8-5 lead. NIU erased that deficit and moved ahead, 11-8, courtesy of a 6-0 run that included two kills each from Radtke and Kelly. A Roddy kill and a Radtke ace pushed the advantage to 14-10.
Miami closed the gap to one on two occasions at 14-13 and 17-16, but NIU turned away the RedHawks with runs of 3-1 and 3-0 to take a 20-16 lead. Once more, the RedHawks rallied and got within 23-22 and 24-23, but Roddy denied Miami with a kill for a 25-23 win in the fourth.
Miami grabbed the early 4-0 lead in the final frame with a block and two NIU errors. Kills from Radtke and Gonzalez put the Huskies on the board and within two, while a Horwath kill and a Roddy ace closed the Huskies’ gap to 6-5. The RedHawks answered with three-straight, capping it with an ace for a 9-5 lead.
Down 11-7, NIU came back with a 6-0 run that included three Roddy kills and a block from Radtke and Emily Paschke (Winfield, Ill./West Chicago Community). Another Roddy spike put NIU at match point at 14-12, but Miami rallied to tied the frame at 14-14. From there, NIU and Miami went to extras with four match points occurring in that time. However, the RedHawks got the final point to claim a 19-17 victory.
Roddy ended the night with 25 kills and 17 digs for a double-double. Kelly finished with 11 spikes, while Radtke and Horwath both had nine kills in the loss. Defensively, four Huskies had double-digit blocks and Radtke ended the night with five blocks.
The Huskies finish the season with a 21-10 overall record and the MAC West Division title.
In addition, NIU had three First Team All-MAC performers in Gonzalez, Radtke and Roddy – the most for NIU since 2011 – and had a MAC All-Freshman honoree in Seurer for the Huskies’ four freshman award winner in the last three seasons.
The loss was also the final match for NIU’s seniors, Paschke and Roddy.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.