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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

COLUMN: Ranking the Top-10 NIU Athletics programs of 2023-24

Eddie Miller
A graphic displays 10 photos of NIU student-athletes from various athletic programs under a red box with white lettering. The Northern Star Sports Staff compiled its top-10 NIU Athletics programs of the academic year. (Eddie Miller | Northern Star)

There have been plenty of ups and downs throughout the 2023-24 academic year across the 16 sports that make up NIU Athletics. As the spring semester closes, the Northern Star Sports Staff focuses on the ups.

From MAC Championships to stunning individual performances, these are the sports that have brought success to the Huskie name throughout the past eight months.


After going a measly 10-43 in the 2023 campaign, NIU baseball has shown improvements this year under first year head coach Ryan Copeland. 

The Huskies have already surpassed their 2023 win total, posting a record of 15-29 along with a conference record of 9-12.

Senior outfielder/catcher Colin Summerhill has led the charge for NIU’s offense, leading the MAC in home runs with 18 and second in the MAC in RBI’s with 50. Summerhill also set the NIU single season record for home runs with his 16th long ball of the season April 19 against Kent State

The Huskies’ best win of the season came on March 26 with a 17-8 win over Northwestern University. The Huskies scored 10 runs in the final two innings of the contest to surpass the Wildcats.


NIU gymnastics posted a 9-13-1, 1-5 MAC record, took home two individual MAC titles and sent two gymnasts to NCAA regionals in 2023. 

Senior Alyssa Al-Ashari and sophomore Kiera O’Shea, who were both named to the All-MAC Second Team, competed in the NCAA Fayetteville Regionals. Two weeks earlier, O’Shea co-championed the vault at the 2024 MAC Championships with a 9.925 as Al-Ashari’s 9.900 on beam earned a tie for first place as well.

The Huskies achieved their all-time best team score Jan. 19 at the Tennessee Collegiate Classic. NIU scored 196.400 en route to a second-place finish behind Lindenwood University.


Women’s basketball snuck into the MAC Championship as the sixth and final team in the tournament, following a 15-15 regular season with an 8-10 record in MAC play. Although the journey didn’t make it past the first round, the Huskies put up a fight against the eventual MAC champions, the Kent State University Golden Flashes, losing 63-60.

The highlight of the season was a 76-71 overtime win over the Ball State University Cardinals. The Cardinals were 20-2 at the time and undefeated in their first 10 MAC games.

Senior forward Brooke Stonebraker turned heads in her first season as a starter, leading the Huskies in points per game (11.4), rebounds per game (9) and blocks (18). Stonebraker was named to the All-MAC Third Team.


NIU men’s golf capped off the 2023-24 season tying for third place at the 2024 MAC Championship, following five tournaments in the fall 2023 season and six tournaments in the spring 2024 season. 

The Huskies’ best tournament was the MAC Championship. Three golfers cracked into the top-15 – junior Felix Krammer, junior Ben Sluzas and sophomore Ian Bruchhauser.

Bruchhauser led the pack, finishing in third place. Sluzas tied for ninth place and Krammer tied for 12th place. 

NIU’s lowest round score came in the Fall 2023 season at the Quail Valley Collegiate Invitational, scoring 274 in the first round. The 274 strokes set a new 18-hole team scoring record for NIU. 


During the 2023 season, NIU women’s soccer clinched a MAC Tournament appearance for the first time since 2017. The Huskies also finished at least .500 for the first time since 2010.

Women’s soccer recorded two three-game win streaks and compiled seven shutout wins in its 2023 campaign. 

Redshirt senior goalkeeper Sadie McGill anchored the Huskies’ defense all season, finishing with 72 saves on a 0.791 save percentage. McGill ranked third in the MAC in goals against average with 1.012.

Freshman forward Tyra King led NIU in goals scored with 3.


Despite not qualifying for the MAC Championships, NIU women’s tennis ended its season 16-10, 5-5 MAC. 

The Huskies achieved a five-match win streak during the season and ended with winning records in singles and doubles matches. In singles, the Huskies had a record of 78-69, with a doubles match record of 37-23. 

Doubles duo junior Erika Dimitriev and sophomore Nataly Ninova were named the MAC Doubles Pair of the Week twice. The duo went 10-3 in matches played together. Senior Diana Lukyanova and sophomore Isabella Righi were also named the Doubles Pair of the Week, going 10-10 on the season.

Lukyanova was also named MAC Singles Player of the Week. She went 15-9 in singles matches during the season.


Ending the season with a 7-9-1, 3-4-1 MVC record, NIU men’s soccer produced a more successful season than its regular season record reflected. 

After starting the season 2-6, the Huskies went on to play in the semifinals of the MVC Tournament. NIU defeated Bowling Green State University twice in a row to end the season, first to advance to the tournament and then again in the quarterfinals of the tournament to advance to the semifinals. Western Michigan University defeated NIU 3-1 in the semifinals after two periods of extra time.

Senior goalkeeper Jakub Rojek was the stand out for the Huskies, with 84 saves on the season and a .778 save percentage. He recorded 11 saves in the tournament quarterfinals and another 8 to open the semifinal and hold off the Western Michigan offense until the 82nd minute.


Going 18-6, 7-3 MAC this season, NIU men’s tennis improved by five wins from the 13-10, 4-6 MAC record from the 2022-23 season.

Not losing for over a month, the longest winning streak the team had was 9 matches. The Huskies went 42-24 in doubles matches and 93-44 in singles matches over the course of the season. The season ended in the semifinals of the MAC Championships against the University of Toledo, where NIU was swept 4-0 in the loss. 

Freshman Saul Berdullas was named the MAC Freshman of the Year, and seniors Cheng En Tsai and Mikael Vollbach were named to the All MAC First Team. Berdullas went 17-5, 8-2 MAC in singles matches and 9-13 in doubles matches alongside senior Armin Koschtojan. Tsai and Vollbach went 15-6 and 14-9 in singles matches, respectively, and 15-8 in doubles matches as a duo.


NIU women’s golf had a slower start in the fall, but really caught its stride during the spring season. The Huskies competed in four events in the Fall 2023 season and six in the 2024 Spring season. 

The Huskies opened the Fall 2023 season taking fifth place at the Redbird Invitational. Following the Redbird Invitational, NIU failed to crack into the top-10 in the remaining three fall tournaments. 

NIU flipped the script in the spring, placing in the top-five at every Spring 2024 tournament and placing top-three at three of them, including a third place finish at the Mac Championship. The Huskies’ best tournament was the Pinetree Intercollegiate, placing second out of 10 teams. 

Senior Emily Romancew led the Huskies in scoring average across the 2023-24 season, averaging 74.01 per round. Romancew also keyed in five top-10 placements in the Spring 2024 season. 


After a disappointing 3-9 2022 season, NIU football bounced back with a 7-6 2023 campaign, winning its first bowl game since the 2011 season. 

The Huskies started slow in 2023, winning just one of their first five games. After a 35-33 loss to the MAC regular season champion University of Toledo Rockets, NIU won six of its last eight games to salvage a winning season.

A 55 point eruption against the University of Akron Zips kickstarted the Huskies’ offense after a sluggish start. 

NIU’s defense shouldered the load for most of the season, leading the way in a signature 27-24 victory over Boston College and a 23-13 homecoming victory over Ohio University.

After a win over Kent State University to clinch bowl eligibility, the Huskies defeated Arkansas State 21-19 in the 2023 Camellia Bowl, snapping a losing streak of seven consecutive bowl games.


Clinching the MAC West Division title and maintaining a perfect home record for the first time in two decades, wrestling dominated throughout the past season.

Wrestling kicked off its season with a statement-making 95-0 victory in a dual meet against Lindenwood University and St. Ambrose. Just a single match resulted in a decision as NIU earned bonus points in 19 bouts. 

Despite finishing seventh out of 13 participating teams at the 2024 MAC Championships, wrestling saw seven total podium finishes and an NCAA Qualifier. 

That NCAA Qualifier, redshirt sophomore Blake West, proved to be a dominant force in the 125-pound weight division. West embarked on a 10-match winning streak from Jan. 5 to March 8, concluding the season 27-8 overall record and remaining unbeaten in conference matches.

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