Roomies’ battles limited to court-time competition

By Mike Morris

Kari Niesen and Julie Kreiling are roommates whose styles of play on the volleyball court closely resemble their personalities off the court.

Niesen, a softspoken outside hitter from Waunakee, Wis., likes to find an open area on the court and exploit it. Kreiling is a fast-talking, powerful outside hitter from Mendota, Ill.

“She’ll go out and pound the ball,” Niesen said. “When I’m (playing) consistently I’ll just get it in the court.”

Off the court, the 19-year-old sophomores are the best of friends, despite the fact that they play the same position and vie for the same playing time.

“When we talked about rooming together, people said, ‘there’s gonna be competition’ and ‘you’re gonna be so sick of each other’ and all the other stuff,” Kreiling said. “But there haven’t been any conflicts whatsoever.”

Last year’s coach, Herb “Spike” Summers, was against the idea of teammates living together. So when Summers was let go they decided to sign up for a room together at the University Plaza.

“When we got to know each other last year and talked to ‘Spike’ (about rooming together) he said, ‘No way, I’d rather you didn’t,’ Kreiling said. “So this year we just did it after he got fired.”

Summers’ replacement, Pete Waite, apparently had nothing against his players living together (there are two other pairs of players rooming together this year).

“They’re a good pair,” Waite said. “They get along well on and off the court and have a lot of fun together.”

The fun started from the day they met—a recruiting trip to NIU when they were both high school seniors.

“We came on our recruiting trip together and had a really good time,” Kreiling said. “We went out to dinner and met the team and then they (the team) took us out to a party. And we had a really good time.”

“When Kari and I first met on the recruiting trip, we had totally wrong ideas about each other. Not that we didn’t like each other, but I was wearing my glasses and she thought I was ‘miss quiet‘ and ‘miss study bug.'”

Now Niesen knows better.

“When I first meet someone I’m not really that comfortable around them until I get to know them,” Niesen said. “But she can just talk about anything and carry on a conversation with anyone.”

During the time they have known each other, Niesen and Kreiling have developed a close friendship built on mutual trust and honesty. Kreiling calls it something else.

“Blunt is the key word,” Kreiling said. “Basically, that’s the way we are with everything—honest and blunt. We don’t pussyfoot around. If people saw us they’d think ‘God, they must hate each other.’ But that’s just the way we are.”

So far, the situation has worked well for everyone involved. The NIU women’s volleyball team is 14-8, Kreiling and Niesen are playing well and both sophomores will be back for two more years—together.