Fans appreciate new-found sport

By Carl Ackerman

As the NIU women’s basketball season winds down, its fan’s enthusiasm seems to be on the rise.

Not only has the average turnout increased over the past few years, but a new Illinois women’s collegiate attendance record of 6,118 fans was set at NIU in the Huskies’ 92-72 victory over DePaul on Feb. 15.

The growing interest in the women’s basketball program was evident at Fan Appreciation Night, held Tuesday after NIU’s 122-86 thrashing over Valparaiso.

“I always thought women’s basketball wasn’t very competitive and was very low scoring. I came to one Huskie game (NIU’s 97-82 win over Ball State, Dec. 2) and I’ve been hooked on them ever since. They play well as a team. I like their run and gun offense. It’s really exciting to watch,” said DeKalb resident Dan Mingee.

Although this is Mingee’s first year following women’s basketball, Duane Hayes has followed NIU for 20 years.

“I used to play over at Anderson (Hall) when 25-50 people would come to watch us. It’s just amazing how the program has grown. When I went to the DePaul game, I was hoping to see about 4,500 fans. The turnout was tremendous,” said Hayes, an NIU graduate.

Amazement seems to be the key description most fans find after seeing their first NIU women’s basketball game, especially Kishwaukee freshman Tim Sandy.

“I’m from North Dakota so this is my first year following the team. I couldn’t believe it when I saw it. I thought the DePaul game was awesome. I knew there was going to be a big crowd, but I didn’t think that there would be that many,” said Sandy.

Another freshman who has developed a fond interest in the program is Andy Plonka, who like many others was skeptical about the team at first.

“I always thought it wasn’t exciting. I thought it was slow paced until I saw my first game. I’ve been following them all year. I like the high scoring, and I think they’re an enthusiastic bunch,” said Plonka.

Crowd enthusiasm has helped spark the women’s team this season.

“There’s a spirit and feeling for NIU athletics that has not been here for a long time, and I think the turnout at the (recent NIU-DePaul game) could have impact on more than just the women’s program,” said DeKalb resident Dave Dieterle.