NSC championship reaps more benefits

By Jennifer Hutchins

The NIU volleyball team collected an impressive set of souvenirs during it’s trip to the last North Star Conference Finals this weekend.

Try an NSC championship, an automatic bid to a national tournament, three all-conference player awards and the Newcomer of the Year award.

In the final chapter of the NSC, the Huskies (25-7) dug deep for the league crown after pulling away from a 2-0 deficit against Wright State University in the title bout. The NSC will be merging with the Mid-Continent Conference next season so NIU stands as the last league champion.

The Huskies accomplished that feat by digging deep the last three games against WSU, 15-5, 15-13, 15-13 for the first place finish and an automatic bid to the National Invitational Volleyball Championship Dec. 5 through 7.

“The Wright State match was the most unbelievable match I’ve ever seen,” head coach Pete Waite said. “Wright State was just blasting the ball. It was the most explosive offense game we’ve ever played. We won the fourth game and then the fifth game, there was never anything more than a two-point difference between us.

“It was a real slugfest and an unbelievable seesaw battle,” Waite added.

The seesaw battle Waite referred to actually began a day earlier. In order to make it to the championship match Sunday, the Huskies needed two victories Saturday—one over Cleveland State University and the other against University of Illinois-Chicago.

NIU triumphed over a determined CSU team 13-15, 15-7, 15-11, 15-8 but took the UIC game to the full five game limit: 11-15, 12-15, 15-8, 15-12, 15-13.

“We weren’t playing very well against UIC,” Waite said. “But during the third game we came around, woke up and played a lot more aggressive ball. It took a gutsy effort during the fifth game when we were down 13-10 to come back and win.”

While the team celebrated its first-ever post tournament bid and Waite’s second conference crown in four years, freshman Shelby Snyder and sophomore Amy Foulke were named to the list of First-Team All Conference selections while junior Wendy Mason was announced as a member of the Second-Team All Conference.

Snyder, a 5-6 setter, was also given the distinguished honor of being named Newcomer of the Year.

“It’s great to see Shelby get the recognition she deserves,” Waite said. “She’s been working hard all year for this.”

The Huskies must now wait for a list of opponents in the NIVC which will be held at Wright State University this year. According to Waite, the NIVC is designed for those Division I teams that do not receive an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

“Although there’s still an outside chance we could receive an NCAA bid, we’re just thrilled to be a part of the NIVC field,” Waite said. “The NCAA is the top 32 teams while the NIVC is made up of the next top 20 teams in the country.”

Both the NCAA tournament field and the NIVC schedule will be announced Sunday evening.