OXFORD — Behind a raucous crowd, the Miami University volleyball team took over the Mid-American Conference regular season lead and set a school record with its 19th victory in a row in a 3-0 (25-22, 25-20, 25-23) win over Northern Illinois Saturday evening. The RedHawks improve to 20-4 on the season and a perfect 12-0 in the MAC. The Huskies saw their 14-match winning streak snapped as they fell to 19-5 overall and 11-1 in the MAC.
Miami broke a school record that had been set from Oct. 1-Nov. 14, 1980. In their 19 straight victories, the RedHawks have dropped only seven total sets. That includes only two in MAC play. Miami’s win streak is now the longest active win streak in all of NCAA Division I.
“It was a great match, I thought Northern brought their game and they were confident,” said head coach Carolyn Condit. “I love playing against a team like that. I’m super proud of how our women stayed calm and continued to go at them and just take control on their home floor. It was awesome to watch.”
Senior outside hitter Maris Below led the way with a double-double of 13 kills and 11 digs for the ‘Hawks. Senior middle hitter Paige Hill and sophomore outside hitter Stela Kukoc each recorded 11 kills. Hill did not make a single attack error in 19 attempts for an attack percentage of .579.
The setters put the Miami attackers in good position throughout the night, allowing the team to hit .296 for the match. Sophomore Mackenzie Zielinski recorded a double-double with 27 assists and a team-leading 16 digs. Senior Krista Brakauskas finished with 20 assists and seven digs.
A balanced offense featuring two kills from junior right side hitter Olivia Rusek, along with kills from junior middle hitter Meredith Stutz, Below, Hill and Kukoc allowed the RedHawks to take a 7-5 lead to begin set one. NIU tied the score at eight, but back-to-back kills from Rusek and Hill along with a service ace from Rusek were part of four straight points for Miami that forced the Huskies to call timeout. Out of the break, Northern Illinois went on a 9-4 run to retake the lead at 17-16 and make the ‘Hawks take a timeout of their own. Trailing 17-18, a pair of NIU errors and a kill from Below put MU back on top, this time to stay. Leading 23-22, Below recorded back-to-back kills to finish off the 25-22 win.
Northern Illinois built a 7-5 lead early in set two. Below had two kills, while Zielinski put down a service ace as part of a 9-3 run that made it 14-10 in favor of the RedHawks. Junior right side hitter Katie Tomasic and Kukoc had kills, while Brakauskas recorded a service ace to make it 18-11. The Huskies did not give up, responding with an 8-2 run that pulled them within one at 19-20. Below immediately changed momentum back to the Red and White with back-to-back kills. It ended up being a 5-1 closing run as a kill from Hill finished off a 25-20 victory.
Miami had to use an early timeout as it fell behind 4-7 to begin set three. The break proved to be beneficial as the team went on a 7-3 run punctuated by a block from Kukoc and Rusek that made it 11-10. The teams traded the lead three more times until NIU went in front, 18-17. After a Stutz kill, a 4-2 run by the Huskies gave them a 20-18 advantage. A kill from Below and a Northern Illinois attack error tied the score, but the Huskies again scored two in a row to take a 22-20 lead and force a MU timeout. After the break, Hill and Kukoc had back-to-back kills, while Rusek had a service ace to give the ‘Hawks the lead. A NIU attack error gave Miami match point. The RedHawks then hit a service error, but Tomasic followed with a kill to finish off a 25-23 victory and give Miami the match in straight sets.
Tomasic finished with eight kills for the RedHawks, while Rusek had seven to go with three service aces. Junior libero Maeve McDonald had 11 digs for Miami, which out-dug the Huskies, 54-49 for the match.
The RedHawks return to action next Friday when they travel to rival Ohio for 7 p.m. match.