MOUNT PLEASANT - Central Michigan was unable to protect its home court Friday night, falling to Northern Illinois, 3-1, in its Mid-American Conference opener inside McGuirk Arena.
With the loss the Chippewas fall to 6-6 (0-1 MAC) on the season, while the Huskies improved to 10-7 (1-0 MAC).
The Chippewas claimed the first set of the night, 25-18, behind a strong offensive attack. As a team, the Maroon and Gold hit .370 as sophomore Kaitlyn McIntyre and senior Lindsey Dulude each recorded four kills and junior setter Kelly Maxwell racked up 11 assists.
The first set was back and forth from the beginning until the Chippewas used a 7-3 run halfway through to grab a 16-12 lead and force NIU into a timeout. A kill by freshman Angie White put the Chippewas ahead by five, 22-17, and ultimately the home squad was able to put the set away on a NIU attacking error.
The Huskies were able to turn around the match in the second set by holding the Chippewas to a .175 hitting percentage to even the match with a 25-16 victory.
The turning point in the match came in the third set when the Chippewas were unable to close out five different set points late in the match. The Chippewas twice grabbed a three-point lead, 15-12 and 20-17, in the third set to force NIU into timeouts before the back and forth of set points ensued.
A kill by junior middle Danielle Gotham gave CMU its first set point, 24-23, before NIU answered with a kill of its own. The trend continued with Gotham recording two more kills only to be answered by the Huskies before sophomore Hallie Enderle answered two more points by the Huskies with kills of her own. NIU eventually was able to claim a 29-28 lead on a kill by Sarah Angelos and after a CMU timeout, took the momentum-swaying match on a service ace by MacKenzie Roddy.
CMU's never-say-die attitude came out in the fourth set as they attempted to keep the match alive and again a big run proved vital as they turned a 9-9 tie game into a 16-12 advantage on a service ace from senior Val DeWeerd. A kill by McIntyre kept the Chippewas' advantage at two, 18-16, but that was the last lead the home team would hold as the Huskies took the lead, 19-18, on back-to-back attacking errors by Gotham. Another kill from DeWeerd cut the Huskies' lead to two, 24-22, but MacKenzie ended the match with a kill from the left side giving NIU a 25-22 set win.
Four Chippewas finished the night with double-digit kill efforts, led by McIntyre's 16. DeWeerd recorded 11 to go with a team-high five blocks, while Gotham and Dulude each finished with 10. Maxwell guided the offense, finishing the night with 52 assists, while junior Jenna Coates went over the 30-dig mark for the second time this season, finishing with 31.
CMU led the way in nearly every statistical category, finishing the night with a .263 hitting percentage, 60 kills, 59 assists and 74 digs. NIU hit .220, recorded 56 kills, dished out 51 assists and dug 69 balls. CMU also finished the night with 17 blocks.
The Chippewas continue their homestand and MAC play tomorrow evening when they play host to rival Western Michigan. The match is set to begin at 7 p.m.