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Geneva’s Wicinski topping the charts at Northern Illinois

Genevgraduate Lauren Wicinski who had two outstanding seasons NIU has decided play volleyball Michigan State.  | Phocourtesy Northern Illinois

Geneva graduate Lauren Wicinski, who had two outstanding seasons at NIU, has decided to play volleyball at Michigan State. | Photo courtesy of Northern Illinois University

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Updated: November 15, 2011 9:53AM

Ray Gooden didn’t think there was much chance of Lauren Wicinski falling victim to a sophomore jinx. Turns out, the Northern Illinois volleyball coach was on the money.

The Huskies’ outside hitter from Geneva who last season was the first player in the 30-year history of Mid-American Conference volleyball to win both Freshman and Player of the Year honors, continues to wow.

She entered this past weekend’s road trip for league matches at Ball State and Toledo, atop the charts, leading the nation in kills at 5.40-per-set. That was .23 of a kill better than runnerup Monique Mead of Georgia Tech.

She was also ranked third in the country in aces-per-set (0.62), putting her atop the charts for points-per-set at 6.35.

Feats the still-humble Wicinski calls “kind of crazy.”

Indeed, but it continues. Northern dropped a tough five-set match Friday to Ball State in Muncie but bounced back Saturday at Toledo, topping the Rockets 3-1 at Savage Arena to even its league record at 2-2. The Huskies are 13-5 overall.

So how did Wicinski do? Even better, thank you.

She had 25 kills against the Cardinals, then came back with a career-best 39 kills with a .484 hitting percentage on Saturday. It was one off the all-time school record of 40 kills set in 1999 by Mandy Swick in a four-set match and six off the conference record for a match.

“Lauren was superwoman tonight, going for 39 in four sets,” said Gooden.

The total was the best in the league since 2003.

It insures she will continue to lead the nation. With 350 kills in 62 sets, Wicinski moved up to 5.65 kills-per-set.

“It’s been real positive,” said Gooden. “Her game has been really good and she’s stepping up the other parts of her game, too, like blocking.

“What’s impressive is the number of chances she gets, the number of times she will score. Give her 100 opportunities and she’s able to score more than half of the time.”

Wicinski, who takes pride in her all-around game, is third on the team in total blocks (27) and third on the team in digs (2.95-per-set).

She points to two factors that have helped her game, a summer trip she and teammate Sarah Angeslo made to play with USA Volleyball’s A2 Junior National Team in the 2011 European Global Challenge Experience and the connection she’s made with senior setter Kristin Hoffman.

“For sure (the international experience) helped, I’m definitely stronger for the experience,” she said. “Those girls we played were so much shorter but so smart. I learned you don’t have to hit the ball really hard (to score points). Hitting it in the right spot is just as important. Maturity has helped a lot, I’m not just swinging away at the ball.

“And a lot has to do with Kristin and how well she’s doing getting the pace of the ball and we’re getting really good passes to her.”

Hoffman, a senior who played for archrival Batavia in high school, is climbing the charts, too. Last week she ranked second in the country with 12.34 assists-per-set.

Despite Wicinski’s impressive numbers, Gooden isn’t worried his team may be getting too one-dimensional. Senior outside hitter Allison McLaughlin is averaging 2.84 kills-per-set, sophomore middle blocker Angelos 2.40 and junior MB/OH Mary Kurisch 1.97.

“I think, with the exception of a couple matches, we still have been balanced,” he said.

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