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Volleyball Downs Host Huskies at NIU Invitational

Rachel McDonald
Rachel McDonald

DEKALB, Ill. – SIUE volleyball downed Northern Illinois 3-1 Friday to cap its first day at the NIU Invitational. The Cougars fell to UC Riverside 3-0 earlier in the day.

SIUE hit .245 as a team on its way to the 26-24, 23-25, 25-16, 25-23 victory.

"We had an urgency tonight," SIUE Head Coach Kendall Paulus said. "We had great energy and the whole team was giving great information."

Rachel McDonald finished with a double-double of 21 kills and 13 digs to lead the way against the Huskies. She hit .351 for the match.  

"Rachel responded really well," Paulus said. "She knew she didn't play to her standard (against Riverside). This is the player and the numbers that we have been seeing in practice."

Dylynn Otte hit .310 with 13 kills while adding eight digs.  

SIUE opened the match with a come-from-behind 26-24 in the first set against the Huskies. Trailing 23-20, the Cougars used a 6-1 run to close out the set. SIUE twice escaped an NIU set point.

"We definitely felt some momentum (from the end of set one)," Paulus said.

After dropping a close second set, in which SIUE hit just .195, the Cougars ripped off nine of the first 11 points in the third set to seize the momentum. SIUE was far more efficient, hitting .333 in the third set. The Cougars used another run, winning six of the final seven points, to win a tighter fourth set. The largest lead either team enjoyed in the fourth set was a four-point Cougar lead at 12-8.

"We went on some really nice runs," Paulus said. "We knew we'd have to be ready (for set four). We were once step ahead. At every rotation we felt really confident.

Paulus also highlighted the play of middle blockers Kiana Fields and Hope Everett who combined for 13 kills and nine blocks.

"Both middles played well and picked up a lot of kills on the runs," Paulus said. "Hope really showed her versatility playing on the right side tonight. Kiana's blocking was super steady. They had to think about her tonight."

UC Riverside hit .250 as it prevailed in the opening match, downing the Cougars 25-17, 25-20, 25-18. The

Otte and McDonald paced the Cougars with six kills and one block apiece. Mallory Nicholson collected 14 assists. Jordyn Klein finished with 14 digs and added four assists in the early match.

The Cougars will wrap up play Saturday with an 11 a.m. match against Fairleigh Dickinson.