NIU hopes to end season as NSC champions

By Kari Brackett

While the North Star Conference volleyball champions will be decided this weekend at the NSC tournament Saturday and Sunday at DePaul, it might be a vendetta for NIU.

Notre Dame is the defending NSC winner. The Fighting Irish have won 14 matches in a row against NSC adversaries.

“Our goal is to play Notre Dame, and the only way is during finals,” NIU coach Herb Summers said. “Realistically we are the only ones with a chance against them.”

The Huskies met the Fighting Irish earlier this season at Notre Dame and lost 15-4, 15-9, 15-4.

“We really want another chance at Notre Dame,” NIU setter Beth Glisk said. “We would really like to win the tournament.”

The tournament is divided into two pools. Pool A is comprised of Notre Dame, Valparaiso and Marquette. NIU, Dayton and DePaul form Pool B. Saturday’s matches are basically pool games. Each team faces the other two teams in its pool during the day. NIU is scheduled to take on Dayton at 11 a.m. The Blue Demons and the Huskies face each other at 3 p.m.

Sunday’s matches are the real deciders for a conference champ. Dayton and Marquette play at 10 a.m. with the winner to take on Notre Dame at noon. Valparaiso and DePaul also compete at 10 a.m. to earn a chance against NIU. The winners from the noon matches play for the championship at 2 p.m., while the losers vie for third place.

“Our main goal is Notre Dame, but we know there are three games before them,” middle blocker Cathy Holmes said. “We have had very intense and physical practices to prepare for the weekend.”

Any conference play before tournament action is wiped out, but it may give clues to what caliber of teams are competing. While Notre Dame is 5-0, both Dayton and NIU have 3-1 conference records. Valparaiso, DePaul and Marquette each have 1-4 slates.

“We really want to finish off the season strong,” Holmes said. “We have had kind of a disappointing season, and we want to finish strong for (senior) Anne (Polaski).”

Holmes is the Huskies’ leading hitter with 264 kills, giving her a .298 attack percentage. She has gathered 153 total blocks, averaging 1.55 per game. Holmes’ blocking skills ranks her 13th in the nation.

Polaski is second in team hitting. She has tallied 219 kills for a .197 clip. The sole senior is also second in digs with 231, averaging 2.43 per contest. With 208 kills and a .181 attack percentage, Jamie Steenblock is third on the team in hitting.

Setter Beth Glisk is leader in digs. She has dug 277 balls for a game average of 2.80. The “quarterback” is second in blocks with 75.

Summers said he thinks if his team makes it to the Notre Dame match, the Huskies have a very good chance of winning. He has been worried with Polaski’s performance and did not start her in Tuesday’s match against Valparaiso, but he said if she can play to her potential it will improve the squad’s chances.

“When we played Notre Dame last time, they didn’t play well, and we played worse,” Summers said. “We can be better with Anne starting left side.

“If we get momentum, they will be ripe. We have to play hard every match.”

The Fighting Irish may be real ripe for the Huskies. Notre Dame had its streak of 40 straight games won against NSC opponents broken by the Valparaiso Crusaders in game three of their match last Friday.