Waite’s team set for ‘Birds

By Hyun Moon

Volleyball coach Pete Waite knows a lot about the next Huskie opponent.

Illinois State University is coming off a loss to Florida State and a victory over Morehead State for a 6-6 record. The NIU/ISU game is scheduled for 7 p.m. in Chick Evans Field House. The home match should be a welcome relief for the Huskies because they haven’t been home since their home opener against Wisconsin-Milwaukee on September 5 when the Huskies beat UW-M.

But once the match starts, the competition should be fierce between the intrastate rivals. The two defending champions of their respective conferences battled to a four game match last year with ISU coming out out on top (15-9, 15-4, 14-16, 15-9).

Waite knows tonight’s opponent well because he had been the assistant coach for two years at ISU before taking the head job at NIU. The ISU Redbirds have four senior returnees who have been with the ISU program since their freshman year. Waite was with them until their sophomore year.

“(ISU) is at the strong point of its program with its four seniors,” said Waite. “Going into the match, (ISU) has to be favored, but it is our home court and if we go after them we have a good chance of winning.

“We should know exactly what they will try to do. It’s just a matter of executing,” said Waite.

ISU is the defending Gateway Conference champion and NIU is the defending North Star Conference champion, but NIU does not have the experience that the Redbirds have.

After their disappointing performance at Eastern Michigan, are the Huskies at a down point? “No,” said Waite, “We’re still in the process of making sure that we improve every time we step out on to the court so we’ll be ready for the conference matches.”

The player who certainly is not at a down point is senior middle blocker Jamie Steenblock, who was named by opposing coaches to the all-tournament team at Eastern Michigan.

“Jamie certainly has been our strongest offensive player in the past two weeks,” said Waite. Steenblock provided the Huskies with 59 kills in the four matches last weekend.

Following the match against ISU, the Huskies will have three more consecutive home matches. These matches include Western Illinois on Friday, Waite’s Alma Mater Ball State on Saturday, and against Indiana State on Tuesday, October 3.