The hits just keep on coming for Northern Illinois sophomore volleyball standout Lauren Wicinski.
The outside hitter from Geneva had 25 kills on only 36 swings Thursday to help lead the Huskies to a 3-0 sweep of Mid-American Conference West rival Western Michigan. In the process, Wicinski became the fastest player in NIU history to eclipse the 1,000-kill mark. She surpassed the plateau in 54 matches.
"I was joking with [Lauren] after the match that for the first time in a while it looked like she was having fun," NIU head coach Ray Gooden said. "I know there are people on this team that feel the stress of the season as it wears on, and she does, but she, along with the other girls, continue to do amazing things. She had 25 kills tonight, but it wasn't on 100 swings or anything along those lines. Credit goes to her for scoring those points but also to (Batavia grad) Kristin Hoffman for running the offense and our middle blockers. She just went out there and did her thing. It was great to see her stay in rhythm and not really have a care out there."
Coming off a career-best 39-kill performance at Toledo last Saturday, Wicinski committed just one error. The NCAA kills leader's .667 attack percentage easily eclipsed her previous career high of .550 and helped give NIU (14-5, 3-2 MAC) its first 3-0 win over WMU (13-5, 3-2 MAC) since Nov. 3, 2001.
"Every time we play in our division, it's going to be a war," said Gooden. "It's not really coach speak; it's the truth. We knew tonight was going to be a critical match not just for tonight, but for down the road as well. It was really good for us to go out there and defend our home court."
"[Reaching 1,000 career kills is] special for her and special for the people she's played with," Gooden said. "It's been very impressive to see what she can do when the ball is in her hands. Night after night people know she's a top player but she still finds ways to go out there and score, and score with ease."