Volleyball splits final homestand

By Khobi Price

The volleyball team clinched the Mid-American Conference Tournament sixth seed by splitting its matches against the Central Michigan University Chippewas (25-18, 23-25, 23-25, 25-20, 15-12) Friday and the Eastern Michigan University Eagles (23-25, 17-25, 25-19, 21-25) Saturday at Victor E. Court.

Head Coach Ray Gooden said he is thankful for the fans who supported the Huskies (11-20, 9-7 MAC) during their final homestand of the 2018 season.

“I thought their energy was awesome and we appreciated the support,” Gooden said. “We felt it as a team and program, so we’re very thankful for everyone coming out to support Huskie volleyball.”

Friday – Central Michigan

NIU opened the match with a 8-3 advantage after a sophomore outside hitter Jori Radtke service ace, four senior middle blocker Meg Wolowicz kills and three Central Michigan errors. The Chippewas reduced their deficit to 12-8 after knocking down a kill.

Radtke and Wolowicz kills aided the Huskies in their 5-0 run to bring their lead to 17-8. Central Michigan recorded six of the ensuing 10 points, before a junior middle blocker Brinley Milbrath and block by sophomore middle blocker Kennedy Wallace and sophomore outside hitter Amanda Rullan Vilanova brought NIU’s advantage to 22-14.

The Chippewas sandwiched a Radtke kill in between two Huskie attack errors and two Central Michigan kills to bring the score to 23-18.

NIU won the final two points of the first set after a Wolowicz kill and Central Michigan attack error to take the opening set 25-18.

The teams opened the second set by exchanging points to a 9-9 tie before the Chippewas scored four consecutive points to take a 13-9 lead. The Huskies won seven of the following ten points to tie the set at 15.

Central Michigan regained a 20-19 advantage before notching a 4-1 run to go up 24-20. NIU battled back by scoring three successive points to bring its deficit to one, but the Chippewas scored the final points of the set to win 25-23.

After taking an early 7-6 lead, Central Michigan went on a 9-2 run to take a 16-8 advantage in the third set.

Two Milbrath and a Wolowicz kill spearheaded a 9-1 run to tie the set at 17. The teams exchanged points to a tie at 23 before the Chippewas knocked down two kills to win the set 25-23.

The Huskies took a 3-1 lead in the fourth set after a freshman middle blocker Jasmine Kemp kill.

Central Michigan went on a 5-1 run to take a 6-4 advantage before NIU retaliated with four consecutive points to go up 8-6. The Chippewas scored five successive points to take a 11-8 lead and forcing NIU to call a timeout.

Central Michigan went up 17-12 before the Huskies scored 12 of the ensuing 14 points to go up 24-19.

A Chippewas attack error gave NIU the 25-20 set victory and pushed the match to a fifth set. The Huskies held Central Michigan to a .068 hitting percentage in the fourth set.

NIU jumped out to a 4-2 lead after Wallace, Kemp and Wolowicz kills. The Chippewas brought down their deficit down to one on three separate occasions, but the Huskies maintained their lead for the remainder of the contest, won the set 15-12 after a Radtke kill and claimed a 3-2 match victory.

NIU tallied a season-high 21 blocks in the win over Central Michigan.

“Tonight was a big win for us,” Gooden said. “Central Michigan is physical and play so hard. For us to battle through that was very big for our team. We fought threw the whole way and winning the big points when we needed them.”

“We want to have positive vibes moving into the tournament next week, so it was good for us to start that with a win tonight,” Gooden said.

Saturday – Eastern Michigan

The Huskies honored Wolowicz, redshirt senior Chrystal McAlpin and senior outside hitter Autumn Martin before their match versus Eastern Michigan for Senior Night.

Wolowicz tallied a team-high 19 kills to go along with 10 digs and four blocks, Martin tied a career-high with 12 kills and McAlpin had five kills, hit .714 and recorded a pair of blocks in their last match at Victor E. Court.

“For me at least, it’s been an emotional time here,” Wolowicz said. “It’s been exciting to celebrate our three, four and five years here and know the hard work we put in has been paying off. Hopefully we can set the team up for success in the future.”

NIU opened the first set with three successive points following a Wolowicz kill and two Martin service aces.

The Eagles tied the set at four before the Huskies regained a two point advantage after a Martin kill. Eastern Michigan pulled away with a 9-2 run to take a 17-12 lead, but NIU responded by scoring eight of the following 11 points to bring its deficit down to one.

The Eagles pushed their lead back up to three after a kill. The Huskies tallied back-to-back points to bring their deficit down to one, but Eastern Michigan notched a kill to take the opening set 25-23.

NIU took a 5-3 lead to open the second set, but a Eastern Michigan 6-0 run gave the Eagles a 9-5 advantage. Eastern Michigan maintained their lead after a 3-0 run gave them a 19-11 advantage. The Huskies didn’t make a comeback and lost the second set 25-17.

NIU took an 8-2 lead in the third set after back-to-back Martin and Wolowicz kills. The Huskies advantage grew to as many as seven after four successive point gave them a 23-16 lead. NIU won its lone set of the match after Wolowicz knocked down a kill to take a 25-19 win.

The Eagles won the final set of the match 25-21 after Eastern Michigan senior outside hitter Jordan Smith tallied her 27th kill of the evening for the match victory.

“I know over the years we’ve done amazing things for this team and it’s only going to leave a last effect as the girls go on and play,” McAlpin said. “We’re definitely looking forward to next week. We’re gonna use tonight’s momentum and drive into next week.”

The Huskies will take on the Ohio Bobcats in the first round of the MAC tournament Thursday 6 p.m. in Oxford, Ohio.

“I think if we have just have that focus and energy that we had at Ohio, we had a lot of momentum going into the fifth set, that inner killer to just go out and right, we’ll be fine,” Martin said.