Eastern Michigan University’s women’s volleyball team saw its season end Friday afternoon as it lost, 3-2, to Northern Illinois in its Mid-American Conference tournament quarterfinals match at Toledo.
EMU finished 24-11 overall after falling 25-20, 18-25, 28-26, 24-26, 15-11. NIU continued its tournament run by defeating Toledo in the semis and lost to Ohio University 3-0 (25-21, 25-23, 25-17) in the championship match Sunday at Toledo’s SeaGate Centre.
“This match was the greatest match I’ve coached,” EMU coach Kim Berrington said of the close defeat. “I was really pleased with every players’ effort. Individually, every player gave it their best. I am very proud of them.”
Northern Illinois outplayed EMU, barely edging them in almost every statistical category. The Eagles, for the most part, led in the final set, only to be victim of NIU’s eight-point swing to seal the victory.
“We didn’t lose the match,” Berrington said. “Northern Illinois won those final five points, and we gave it all we had. It just wasn’t enough.”
The Huskies prevailed behind the defense of Lauren Wicinski and Allison McGlaughlin, who combined totaled 43 digs. Their offense was led by Kristen Hoffman, who accounted for 57 assists resulting in 78 kills.
“Northern Illinois played extremely well,” Berrington said. “They are a great team.”
EMU’s offensive leaders weren’t far behind, accounting for 74 kills off 66 assists, with 57 assists coming from junior Ashley Mason. EMU stood its ground on defense as well, with 89 digs. Junior Haley Stein led the way with 34 digs. Senior Jenn Swartz also contributed, ending her collegiate career with 11 kills and two blocks.
Eastern rallied to win five of six points coming back from a 17-13 deficit in the first set, to put itself within two before NIU went on its own rally to win the set.
EMU picked up its play in the second set holding onto an early lead to win the set. The Eagles found themselves falling just short of winning the third set trading blows with NIU to tie late in which NIU pulled away to win the set.
The Eagles answered back, winning the fourth set, to set up a fifth and final set to decide the outcome.
Berrington believed her team had a legitimate chance to win the MAC tournament this year. The Eagles made history this season with their biggest turnaround, winning 19 more games from last year’s 5-28.
“Last year, I felt we were competitive,” Berrington said. “We just lost a lot of our close games. This year we wanted to teach our players how to win, and as the season went along our goal changed to winning the MAC entirely.”
She is optimistic looking ahead to next year.
“Next year, I want to put our players into focusing all their energy in competing for a MAC championship,” Berrington said. “We know how to win right now; we’ve held leads, won tied games, and even had our share of comebacks.”
Four Eagles were honored this year, a first for the program. Stein and sophomore Rachel Iaquaniello received first-team All-MAC honors; Mason earned second-team All-MAC; and Erin Short was selected to the first-team freshman All-MAC.