Last chance for spikers to get Big Ten win

By Kari Brackett

NIU’s volleyball team has one more chance to defeat a Big Ten team this season.

The Huskies head to Evanston, Ill. tonight for a 7:30 p.m. contest against the Northwestern Wildcats.

The NIU squad has not had much luck with Big Ten teams this year. The Huskies were victims to Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota. NIU wants the Wildcats to be the prey this time.

“We are going to work a lot on defense,” Jamie Steenblock said of preparation for Northwestern. “Defense was our downfall in the (weekend) loss to Loyola.”

NIU coach Herb Summers added serve receiving and outside hitting to the list of skills to practice. Summers was not pleased with his team’s outside hitting performance at the weekend tournament at Illinois-Chicago.

“We just did not hit well from the outside,” Summers said.

While NIU is entering the match after a somewhat disappointing 2-1 record at the invitational, the Wildcats begin the contest with two recent losses. Northwestern lost to Illinois and Purdue earlier in the week.

“We are either catching them at a good time or a bad time,” Summers said. “If they are feeling down it is good for us, but if they are real angry they may come in hungry for a win.”

Northwestern is no pushover. The squad has a 21-6 overall record and stands at 8-5 in the Big Ten. The Wildcats have been ranked nationally as one of the top 25 teams most of the year and were in the top 20 through mid-October.

The Huskies have a 14-13 overall record. One main concern for Summers is injuries. Freshman Kari Niesen is out for an indefinite period because of a broken foot. Her foot was X-rayed Monday night to determine if she will be out for the rest of the season. Niesen debuted as a starter Tuesday against Bradley, and Summers was expecting her to be a major contributor the rest of the season.

The Huskie leader is Cathy Holmes. The junior has a .312 kill percentage, 33 solo blocks and 97 blocking solo assists. She averages 2.75 attacks per game and 1.60 blocks per game.

Summers recorded his 100th career victory Friday night with a three-game win over DePaul at the UIC Invitational. He has a 101-95-1 career mark.