NIVC pairings excite NIU spikers

By Jennifer Hutchins

The NIU volleyball team is feeling real good about its recently announced pairings at the National Invitational Volleyball Championship December 5 through December 7.

The 25-7 Huskies are ranked No. 12 in a field of 20 but for the most part, ended up in an “ideal” pool. The NIVC is divided into four ‘subpools’ of five in which the champion of each pool moves onto the semifinals of the tournament which is being held in Columbus, Ohio this year.

NIU is seeded No. 3 in its pool which follows Santa Clara University and the College of William and Mary which are in the top 8 of the tournament but fortunately are not the very top seeds of the NIVC, according to NIU head coach Pete Waite.

“We feel really good about the pool we ended up in,” Waite said. “Kentucky is seeded first, Northern Arizona is second and Notre Dame is third. Luckily we don’t face any of those teams during pool play.”

One thing NIU has anticipated in its first ever postseason tournament is that there are no “weak” teams. The NIVC invites the top 20 teams not included in the NCAA Tournament.

“Obviously any team is going to be tough, these are teams that won their conference championships,” Waite said. “We do have to take it one game at a time but we feel good about the way we played during the last tournament (NSC finals) and know that even if we get down we can come back fighting.

“If we play the way we are capable of I think we stand a good chance of coming out ahead,” Waite added.

Santa Clara, the No. 1 seed in NIU’s pool, and William and Mary, the No. 2 seed, are the two teams Waite anticipates the biggest challenge.

“Santa Clara and William and Mary are both real strong teams,” Waite said. “Santa Clara plays a really tough schedule and are 20-10 but three of those losses are to nationally ranked teams.”

The Huskies face Appalachian State University in the first round of pool play Thursday afternoon and then take on Santa Clara that evening. Friday, NIU starts the morning with a match against Villanova University and rounds up the pool against William and Mary.

“Our goal is to compete and never give up,” Waite said. “It’s been a real good week since the girls got a lot of rest and relaxation,” Waite said. “We had a good practice (Monday) and they’re getting real geared up and getting real excited.”

On an additional good note, the Huskies were ranked No. 15 in the 110 Mideast Region last week. Both the NIVC appearance and the regional ranking are firsts for NIU.