Season ends on winning note

By Jennifer Hutchins

It may not have been a first place finish, but the NIU volleyball team finished its season in champion-like style at the National Invitational Volleyball Championship.

In fact, the Huskies were stopped short of even the semifinals as they split four matches in their pool. However, NIU did manage to start and finish its first-ever postseason play on winning notes.

Appalachian State was the first to fall to NIU during Thursday’s opening matches while Santa Clara University dropped the Huskies in three games later that night and made Friday’s matches crucial to NIU’s hopes of winning the pool.

Those hopes were dashed when NIU dropped its first match Friday to the College of William and Mary 15-6, 18-16, 11-15, 15-8. The loss made a trip to Saturday’s semifinals virtually impossible.

“Against William and Mary we came up against a good team,” NIU head coach Pete Waite said. “They were really ready to play. At times we played excellent volleyball, but not over an extended period of time.”

Sophomore hitter Kori Schauer led the Huskies’ offensive attack with nine kills, two errors and 22 attempts for a .318 clip. Schauer also contributed six blocks (one solo, five assists) while Nikki Kozak led the dig charts with a whopping 17.

With a title out of the picture, NIU relied on Huskie pride when it took to the court for a season-capping win over Villanova University. The Huskies delivered a decisive and quick win over Villanova 15-6, 15-4, 15-5.

The win put NIU’s season record at 27-9—27 wins being the second-highest total in NIU history.

“I was happy for the team to finish on a winning note,” Waite said. “We were determined to end the season on a high note.”

Team captain Becky Ramsey delivered a flawless performance at the net with 11-of-24 kills for a .458 hitting percentage, while once again Schauer was a key player with 10 hits in 19 attempts for a .368 hitting clip.

“I’m just very proud of how this team improved throughout the season and from last season,” Waite said. “It says a lot for such a young group starting to realize just how good they can be.”

For the record, NIU’s team will remain intact for next season as the eldest of the group, Wendy Mason and Michele Detry, are the only Huskies above the sophomore level in terms of eligibility.