Volleyball upset by Miami in semifinals


Lauren Zielinski (17), redshirt sophomore middle blocker, spikes the ball Saturday at Victor E. Court in the match against the Eastern Michigan Eagles. The Huskies’ 3-2 loss to the Eagles was their first loss in DeKalb since Aug. 30.

By Rhema Rhea

No. 2 volleyball’s (21-10, 14-2 MAC) comeback attempt fell short as it lost in the MAC Tournament semifinals, 3-2, to the No. 3 Miami (Ohio) RedHawks (21-9, 12-4 MAC).

The Huskies were upset by a lower seed like the No. 1 Ohio Bobcats were earlier in the day when they lost to the No. 5 Western Michigan Broncos, 3-2, Sunday in Athens, Ohio. The Huskies trailed two sets to none but stormed back, forcing a fifth set, which they eventually lost.

“I’m glad we battled back from being down 2-0,” said head coach Ray Gooden. “We still had the fight playing with different combinations tonight. We had our next-man-up mentality. … We put ourselves in a spot to advance but just fell a little short.”

Attack errors were the story of the night for the MAC West champions as NIU collected 30 through the five-set match.

The Huskies’ defense just couldn’t keep the RedHawks’ offense in check, especially in the second set when Miami hit .543 and had 20 kills and only one error.

NIU started off slow during the opening two sets, falling in an early 0-2 deficit. The Huskies later crawled back to force a fifth set for the third-straight match.

The Huskies played for the first time since their 3-2 regular season finale home loss to the Eastern Michigan Eagles Nov. 15 at Victor E. Court.

“… The thing we’ve been continuing to do all year [is] fight,” Gooden said. “I think we forgot about that because we hadn’t played in so long, and just with the pressure with playing in that match I think they caught us off guard in the beginning. But, we fought, we clawed and we battled our way through those sets three and four, even down 4-0 in the fifth set we came back and we were up 13-11.”

Junior setter Alexis “Pookie” Gonzalez finished with a match-high 54 assists and also chipped in 15 digs. Gonzalez wasn’t the only Huskie who tallied a double-double as senior Mackenzie Roddy registered double figures in two categories with 25 kills and 17 digs.

Two RedHawks who made the 2014 First Team All-MAC team, senior Meg Riley (34 assists) and sophomore middle hitter Paige Hill (12 kills), made big contributions to their team during the five-set victory.

The loss wrapped up the careers of seniors Emily Paschke and Roddy. Their four-year run included an NCAA tournament berth, four-straight trips to at least the MAC semifinals and three 20-win seasons.

“We’re so thankful for what they’ve been able to do,” Gooden said. “Without a doubt both of them played their best volleyball as seniors. They provided a level of respect and appreciation for what we do. I think the younger kids have a lot to live up to because those guys have left this program in a pretty good place, and we’re thankful for what they’ve been able to provide as Huskies. They’re going to be truly missed.”