Editorial: NIU student-athletes excelled this year


Amber Siegel

Athletes across different sports doing signature actions for their sports. NIU student-athletes did an amazing job this year. (Amber Siegel | Northern Star)

Editor’s note: Joey Trella, opinion editor and NIU student-athlete, was not a part of writing this editorial. 

Participating in collegiate athletics at the Division I level is a dream that only a select few can accomplish. An even fewer number of people can succeed at the Division I level.

NIU Athletes have exemplified success at the Division I level during the 2022-2023 academic year. From All-MAC selections to MAC Championships, the Huskies’ accolades speak for themselves.



Women’s volleyball ended its 2022 season with a 17-11 record and 10-8 record in the MAC. Sophomore libero Francesca Bertucci was the MAC Defensive Player of the Year and was second in the nation for digs-per-set, with a stellar 5.92. Bertucci and junior Charli Atiemo were both named to the All-MAC Second Team. 

On top of that, seven members of the team were named to the Academic All-MAC team. Senior outside hitter Katie Jablonski, senior outside hitter Brianna Scuric, junior setter Ella Mihacevich, Bertucci, Atiemo, sophomore setter Sophie Hurt and sophomore defensive specialist Jada Cerniglia earned the honor this year. 


Men’s soccer ended the season with a 5-8-4 record overall and a 2-5-1 record in the MAC with a team that achieved multiple honors. Senior defender Adrian Lara and fifth-year midfielder Adrian Corona were awarded All-MAC Second Team honors. Lara was the only player to start all 17 games this season, playing all 90 minutes in 14 of those starts. Lara led the team with 1,494 minutes played. Corona started in 16 games, with 1,358 minutes played. In his five seasons on the team, Corona was in 81 games, starting all but five of them.

The team also brought home 11 Academic All-MAC honors selections. This is a record number of selections for NIU, and it ranked second in the MAC, only trailing Bowling Green State University. 


Women’s soccer concluded their year with a 6-8-4 overall record and a 3-6-2 conference record, standing eighth in the MAC. The team’s eight losses are the fewest in a season since 2008. Freshman forward Amber Best, who tied the team lead in goals and points, was honored on the MAC All-Freshman Team. Best’s four goals came in conference play and, because of this, she ranked eighth in the MAC for in-league goals. 

This year, the team also had nine Academic All-MAC honors selections and six academic all-district selections. This year is the ninth consecutive year the team has had nine or more Academic All-MAC honors. 


Football had some big-time players during the 2022 season. Hometown talent and former wide receiver Cole Tucker ended this year with 2,030 yards, just the eighth person with over 2,000 receiving yards at NIU. After a stellar career, the DeKalb native was selected fourth overall in the CFL draft. 21 Huskies were selected to the Academic All-MAC team, led by senior tight end Liam Soraghan which is his fourth such honor. 

The team also had four players named to Pro Football Focus’ All-MAC team: junior offensive linemen John Champe and senior defensive tackle James Ester on the second team and Harrison Waylee and Tucker on the third. Five players earned Academic All-District Honors as well. Sixth-year linebacker Kyle Pugh was a semi-finalist for Comeback Player of the Year. 



Men’s basketball reached its first MAC Tournament since 2021. Although the Huskies were defeated in the first round by Kent State University, the team enjoyed a four-win improvement from the 2021-2022 season, finishing with an overall record of 13-19 and a conference record of 9-9. 

Sophomore guard David Coit and senior guard Kaleb Thornton were the catalysts to NIU’s success during the 2022-2023 season. Coit earned his first career All-MAC Third Team Selection after averaging 16.9 points per game in conference play, ranking eighth in the MAC. Coit tied a career-high 32 points in an upset win over then-No. 1 seeded Kent State on Jan. 24.

Thornton led the MAC in steals and assists in conference play with 2.2 and 6.7, respectively. Thornton’s strong play on both sides of the ball earned him an All-MAC Honorable Mention.


Senior forward A’Jah Davis’ record-breaking season highlighted the Huskies’ rollercoaster season. Davis broke Tammy Hinchee’s career double-double record, finishing with 54. She also holds the program’s single season double-double and rebounding records.

Three Huskies earned MAC postseason honors for their standout seasons. Davis was selected to the All-MAC First Team for the second consecutive season, senior guard Chelby Koker was selected to the All-MAC Second Team and graduate guard Janae Poisson won her second Sixth Player of the Year award in the last three years.

The Huskies’ 16-17 overall finish helped them clinch an appearance in the MAC Tournament as the No. 5 seed. This was NIU’s seventh straight appearance in the MAC Tournament.

Nine women’s basketball players earned Academic All-MAC honors, a program high.


Gymnastics finished its season with an overall record of 8-5 and a conference record of 3-3. The Huskies sent three gymnasts to the NCAA Denver Regional – junior Alyssa Al-Ashari, senior Natalie Hamp and sophomore Emmalise Nock. Al-Ashari earned a top-three finish on the balance beam event, scoring a 9.925.

Hamp and Al-Ashari’s stellar season performances earned them both spots on the All-MAC gymnastics team. The Huskies brought home MAC Specialist of the Week honors three times during the 2022-2023 season.

Sophomore all-arounder Isabella Sissi was named to the All-MAC Tournament team after posting a 39.125 at the MAC Championships.


Redshirt senior No. 12 ranked Izzak Olejnik finished in eighth place at 165 pounds at the NCAA Wrestling Championships. Olejnik also received All-American honors on March 17 after upsetting redshirt junior No. 10 ranked Carson Kharchla of The Ohio State University.

Redshirt freshman Blake West was named the MAC Wrestler of the Week on Feb. 17 after upsetting Northwestern University redshirt senior No. 8 Michael DeAugustino.

NIU wrestling finished their season with an overall record of 8-5 and a conference record of 5-1.



NIU men’s golf brought home the 2023 MAC Championship title to DeKalb. The Huskies scored 869 as a team, five-over par. Senior Zach Place led the Huskies with an individual score of 216, even. Sophomore Ben Sluzas and graduate students Campbell Wolf and Tommy Dunsire all finished in the top 15 for the Huskies.

Sluzas was named the MAC Golfer of the Week for two consecutive weeks during the 2023 spring season. Sluzas finished in first place at the Robert Kepler Intercollegiate on April 23 and at the Badger Invitational on Sep. 13.


Women’s golf wrapped up its season with a second-place finish at the MAC Championships. Senior Ahra Ko led the Huskies, finishing tied for seventh place with a total score of 225, nine-over par.

Junior Jasmine Ly was selected to the All-MAC First Team while graduate student Sydney Naro and junior Emily Romancew were voted to the All-MAC Second Team. Ly was also named MAC Golfer of the Week twice during the 2022-2023 season.

The Huskies finished first overall in the Falcon Florida Classic on Feb. 7.


Freshman Iker Gaztambide Arrastia was named the MAC Freshman of the Year after a dominant first season in a Huskie uniform. Gaztambide Arrastia finished the year with a 15-8 singles record including six conference wins. In doubles, Gaztambide Arrastia collected a record of 12-1 with varying partners.

Senior Oliver Valentinsson was selected to the All-MAC Second Team, his third consecutive year receiving All-MAC honors. Valentinsson accumulated a 13-8 dual match record to finish the season.

Juniors Cheng En Tsai and Mikael Vollbach led the Huskies with 15 doubles wins on the season. Their final win came from a 6-2 victory against Saint Louis University.

Vollbach was also voted to the All-MAC Second Team, posting a 14-6 singles record and a 15-5 doubles record with En Tsai.


Junior Diana Lukyanova was women’s tennis sole recipient of All-MAC honors. Lukyanova was voted to the All-MAC Second Team after finishing with a 16-12 overall singles record and a 5-5 conference singles record. Lukyanova consistently held down the No. 2 spot in the Huskies’ lineup.

The Huskies’ final win of the season came in a dramatic comeback victory over the Eastern Michigan University Eagles on April 7. After dropping the doubles point, the Huskies lost two of the next three singles matches, trailing 3-1. 

Sophomore Erika Dimitriev and freshman Isabella Righi continued to battle, both winning each of their singles points in three sets to tie the match at 3-3. Sophomore Angelica Ross completed the comeback by winning the final point in a tiebreaker set 7-3, sealing the 4-3 victory for the Huskies.


Track and field wrapped up its outdoor season by finishing in first place in seven events at the Huskie Classic Sunday, NIU’s lone home meet of the season. Junior Scout Regular was responsible for two of the seven wins, taking home first place in the 100-meter hurdles and finishing first in the 4×100 meter relays.

Junior Skylynn Blue won the 100-meter dash, fifth-year Dymier Jeffrey won the high jump event, fifth-year Diamond Riley earned the long jump win and senior Katelyn Robbins won the 5000-meter run by a three-minute lead.

Fifth-year Kadeja Campbell was named the MAC Track Athlete of the Week on April 26 after running a 54.84 second 400-meter dash.


Softball finished its season with a 26-25 overall record and a 15-13 record in MAC play. The Huskies played a solid season all-around, defeating notable opponents such as Memphis University, Princeton University and DePaul University.

The Huskies were led by standout freshman utility player Danielle “Dee Dee” Stewart. Stewart was named MAC Pitcher of the Week on March 28. Stewart also pitched two straight, nine-strikeout games on April 29 and April 30.

Senior infielder Kelly Walinski earned MAC Scholar Athlete of the Week Wednesday after posting nine RBIs and two home runs. Walinski, a pre-physical therapy major, currently holds a 3.905 GPA.


NIU baseball hasn’t had a season to remember, but its talented roster could spell a bright future for the Huskies.

Junior outfielder and catcher Colin Summerhill, junior infielders Aaron Harper and Andre Demetral lead the Huskies in batting average, all batting over .280 with over 150 plate appearances. Summerhill leads the team in hits with 52, including 10 home runs and 25 total extra base hits.

Sophomore pitcher Mason Ruh leads the Huskies in ERA (5.59) with at least 10 appearances.


The 2022-2023 academic year created many opportunities for student-athletes to shine on the basketball court, the wrestling mat, the football field and more. Each athletic season brought about memorable performances that were worthy of All-MAC selections, honorable mentions and weekly awards. The Huskies’ accolades and accomplishments have proven that they can and will continue to perform on one of the biggest stages in American sports, Division I athletics.