Spikers pounce SMSU for trophy

Although NIU’s trip to Wichita State University had a questionable start, there was no uncertainty by the end of the voyage as to why the Huskies played in the WSU Tournament held Friday and Saturday.

Despite the fact NIU’s plane did not leave O’Hare Airport Thursday until 10 p.m., over three hours after the scheduled departure, any sleep the Huskies lost by arriving in Kansas after midnight didn’t show as the Huskies won the tourney title by pouncing Southwest Missouri State 15-5, 15-6, 16-4. The weekend began when NIU crumpled University of Tulsa 16-14, 15-6, 15-10 Friday. The only setback on the court came Saturday morning against the host Shockers after WSU handed NIU a 14-16, 15-7, 15-8, 9-15, 15-12 defeat.

NIU finished its regular-season action with a 22-9 slate, marking the third time in four seasons coach Pete Waite has had teams win over 20 games.

“Everyone really contributed throughout the tournament,” Waite said.

In addition to winning the tourney, the Huskies had two players get recognized for their performances. Middle blocker Amy Foulke was named Most Valuable Player, while outside hitter Wendy Mason was named to the all-tournament team.

Both Foulke and Mason produced all-around efforts on the court. Foulke recorded 38 kills in 94 attempts against 13 errors, giving her a .266 hitting accuracy.

Twice Foulke registered kill-dig “double-doubles,” including 15 kill-11 dig endeavors against both Wichita State and the Bears. Her best defensive play at the net came against SMSU where Foulke had three block solos and four block assists.

Mason also had two “double-doubles,” giving her 13 for the year. She pounded 17 attacks and passed up 19 digs versus the Golden Hurricane Friday and killed 13 balls while getting 16 digs against the Shockers.

The Huskies probably could have left the tourney with three wins, but errors proved to overcome NIU in its sole loss. The squad outhit WSU 64-60, but 10 blocking erros and two ballhandling misktakes proved costly.

“We just had many unforced errors in that match,” Waite said. “Afterwards, the girls admitted they were playing franticly. Against Southwestern Missouri, we decided we were going to play more relaxed and we smoked them.”