Ray Gooden named MAC Volleyball Coach of the Year

Ray Gooden
Ray Gooden

For the fourth time in his career, Northern Illinois University volleyball coach Ray Gooden has been named the Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year, the league office announced Tuesday.

The Huskies finished the year 19-11, including a 14-2 mark in MAC play, as Gooden led the team to its third regular season title and a berth in the MAC Tournament Championship match.

“I’d like to acknowledge Don Gromala at Kent State for an amazing year, Deane [Webb] at Ohio for a great run and Miami Coach Carolyn Condit for her team’s success,” Gooden said. “I want to thank associate head coach Lynnette Moster, assistant coach Matt Sprague and Sam Grams for their great work, along with our support staff and administration. Most importantly, thanks to the team for their dedicated work and culture. This is a program award.”

In 2015, Gooden put the Huskies through a rigorous non-conference schedule in preparation for league play and the strategy worked to perfection.

NIU also overcame key injuries during the year as outside hitter Mary Grace Kelly and returning First Team All-MAC selection Jenna Radtke missed a combined 22 matches during the non-conference season and in the early part of conference play.

As a result, the team relied heavily on T’ara Austin and Lauren Zielinski, who both turned in career seasons, earning First Team All-MAC honors. Austin led the Mid-American Conference in kills this season with 4.24 kills per set to earn the MAC Player of the Year award.

Running the Huskies offense, senior Alexis Gonzalez was named the MAC’s Setter of the Year, averaging 10.38 assists per set. She closed her career No. 2 in NIU history in assists with 4,846 and No. 10 in MAC history. Gonzalez finished with the most assists by a Huskie in the NCAA’s rally score era (2001-present) and the third-most in MAC history.

Alexis Gonzalez
Alexis Gonzalez

In all, a team-record four Huskies – Radtke, Austin, Zielinski and Gonzalez – were named first-team All-MAC, while freshman Meg Wolowicz was named to the MAC All-Freshman Team.

As a team, NIU led the MAC in hitting percentage with a clip of .250 while Austin led the conference in kills, kills per set and points.

In his 14th season at NIU, Gooden led the Huskies to its sixth-straight 10-plus win season in conference play. He recorded the 250th win of his head coaching career on Sept. 25 versus Central Michigan becoming the second coach in program history to reach the plateau. With 264 wins at NIU, Gooden is two victories away from tying the all-time school record for wins held by former coach Pete Waite.

The Huskies’ season ended last Sunday with a loss to Ohio in the MAC Championship match played in Athens.

For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.

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