TOLEDO, Ohio - The Northern Illinois University volleyball team suffered a tough loss on the road Friday night at Savage Arena, as Toledo came from behind to take a 3-2 win from the Huskies.
NIU (11-8, 3-2 MAC) held a 2-1 lead through three sets, only to have the Rockets claim the fourth and fifth sets to stun the Huskies.
"Toledo is just a very aggressive team, especially after that first set when they kept us on our heels," said NIU Head Coach Ray Gooden. "It's something we have to learn, how to come back against teams - especially on the road - that are more physical than we are."
The Huskies got out to a great start on the road by staking a 7-2 lead in the first set, which was highlighted by back-to-back aces from Kayla Zeno. After NIU extended their lead to 9-3, UT used a 4-0 rally to get within 9-7. Yet, the Huskies broke open the set with an 8-4 run of their own, claiming a commanding 17-11 lead to coast to an easy 25-17 win in the opening stanza.
NIU got an early 4-1 lead in the second courtesy of a few Rocket misfires. However, the home team utilized a 7-2 rally to claim a 7-6 edge - their first lead of the entire match. The Huskies were able to quiet the home crowd with a 6-2 run to move ahead 12-9, only to have UT work back for a 14-14 tie. Following a Mackenzie Roddy kill, though, the Rockets seized control of the set behind a 5-0 run, moving ahead 19-15. The run vaulted UT to a 25-20 second set win and tied things at one set apiece entering the half.
The second half was tight from the start. Despite a 3-0 mini-run from the Huskies that gave NIU a 6-3 lead, the Rockets battled back and got a 10-9 lead. NIU made that lead short-lived with a 7-3 run behind kills from Roddy, Jenna Radtke and Mary Grace Kelly to move ahead, 16-13. That run proved to be vital for the Huskie hopes in the third. After letting UT back to within 19-17, NIU doused the comeback flames by ending the set on a 6-4 run to claim a 2-1 lead through three.
The Huskies looked well on their way to wrapping up their third straight victory early in the fourth set with a 6-2 early advantage due to some UT errors. However, a 4-0 Rocket run quickly got the hosts back into the set, as they held an 8-7 lead. The two sides went back-and-forth en route to a 17-17 stalemate. At that point, the Rockets moved ahead with a late 6-1 run to take a 23-18 lead, only to have the Huskies get some well-timed kills from Sarah Angelos and Kelly - along with a block from Angelos and Emily Paschke - to get within 23-22. The rally was not meant to be, though, as UT got two consecutive kills for the 25-22 set win.
The Rockets' momentum from the fourth set clearly gave them a boost in the fifth, as the Huskies quickly fell behind 8-2 in the deciding stanza. Though NIU tried to overcome the early deficit, UT was able to easily win the final set by a 15-5 score.
Angelos, Roddy and Kelly all finished the night with double-digit kills, registering 16, 14 and 12, respectively, on the night. Additionally, Paschke led the Huskies with five blocks, while Justine Schepler got 25 digs on the loss.
"We have to learn from it and understand how hard it is to fight each night," Gooden said. "It's that much harder on the road. We've got to regroup and come back against a really good Ball State team."
The Huskies look to get back in the win column tomorrow night when they take on the MAC West Division-leading Ball State Cardinals at 6 p.m. CT inside Worthen Arena.