Tough slate challenges women

By Kari Brackett

Challenging might be the way to best describe the 1987-88 NIU women’s basketball schedule.

The Huskies are not just playing mediocre teams to improve last season’s 11-16 record. Second-ranked Tennessee, fourth-ranked California-Long Beach and 10th-ranked Ohio State are just a few of the competitive squads NIU will be facing this year.

“Specifically, we become the best when we play the best,” NIU coach Jane Albright said. “Our goal is the NCAA tournament and to get there we have to play good teams. It’s the only possible way.”

The Huskies are not slowly working their way in either. NIU’s first home game is Dec. 1 against the Ohio State Buckeyes who tied with Iowa for first in the Big Ten last season.

“Ohio finished in the top 20 last year,” freshman Dianna Wingis said. “With it being our first home game we really want to win bad.”

“Big Ten teams fire us up,” Albright said. “We look forward to playing teams in the top 20. Every time we play them we have a chance to beat them.”

In January, the women cagers travel to California for a chance against West Coast teams. Not only does Albright look for proficient teams when scheduling, but she also looks at geographical locations of schools. Albright said it is important for a squad to travel west if it wants to stay competitive.

“The West Coast wrote the book of running,” Albright said. “It is kind of an educational process for the kids.”

NIU’s Fifth Annual Fastbreak Fest, Dec. 5 and 6, is a tournament which excites Albright. The tourney includes Long Beach State, Iowa and North Carolina-Charlotte. Albright called the tournament “the most exciting, single event” on the schedule this season.

“This is as good as it gets,” Albright said. “These are people you might read about in Sports Illustrated.

“We scheduled it for Saturday and Sunday afternoons, so students can get involved. NIU students could be our sixth man.”

With all this stiff competition, one might think the young Huskie squad would be intimidated, but indications prove otherwise. Albright said she has a tough, aggressive team.

“I am very optimistic with this group,” Albright said. I know David and Goliath stories. There is always a chance for things to happen.”

“It is a good opportunity for us,” sophomore Kris Weis said. “We expect a lot. Once we get into the season we will know for sure. We can play with all those girls.”

If NIU has a productive year, it will be a good indication of what to expect in its upcoming seasons. The Huskies have only one senior and two juniors.

“If we do well this season, it helps us that much more in the future,” Wingis said.