NIU spikers to battle Warriors and Irish

By Kari Brackett

NIU’s football team is not the only squad which will play at home during Homecoming weekend. The Huskie volleyball team will take on Marquette tonight at Chick Evans Field House at 7 p.m.

On Saturday the lady spikers travel to South Bend, Ind. to compete against Notre Dame.

It is a North Star Conference weekend for NIU as both of its opponents belong to the league. In conference play, the Huskies are on top of the standings with a 2-1 record. The Fighting Irish are right behind holding a 1-0 slate. Marquette’s 0-2 record places the team last.

NIU’s overall record is 9-7, while Notre Dame’s is 14-3. Marquette upped its record to 2-9 after defeating DePaul Wednesday.

“We are going to integrate more things into team play,” NIU coach Herb Summers said about the weekend action. “We are trying to open up the offense more.”

NIU met Marquette earlier in the season and had no problems defeating the Warriors in three games. Summers said the Notre Dame game should be more challenging, but he does not want his team to take a win against Marquette for granted.

“They (Marquette) have to play better than the first time,” Summers said. “I think we caught them on a bad night. The one problem with having an easy time is that we can take Marquette too lightly. They are not big, but they are quick.”

While Summers said Marquette is a quick team, he said Notre Dame was not, but it has great athletes. The Fighting Irish are ranked seventh in the Midwest region poll, which is their highest regional ranking ever.

Notre Dame’s credentials include 10 straight match wins and 29 consecutive games against NSC competition dating back to the 1985 NSC tourney. Notre Dame has won its last 14 home games. The Irish also have not lost a home match since Sept. 16, 1986, against Western Michigan.

“The one problem is that they might out-athlete us,” Summers said. “If we play with the same kind of intensity as we did against ISU we should do well.”

Notre Dame might have trouble retaining its winning ways. The Irish play Kentucky tonight and Minnesota on Sunday, both matches being at South Bend. Summers said he hopes Notre Dame team be tired by the time it takes on his Huskies.

“I hope they have a grueling five-hour match against Kentucky,” Summers said. “Physically they have some good players but the weekend might take its toll.”

Zanette Bennett is one of Notre Dame’s leaders. She hit for a .448 percentage in the last three matches, including an .857 performance against DePaul.

“Zanette killed us last year. She jumps extremely well and is quick,” Summers said.

While the Irish have Bennett, the Huskies have Cathy Holmes. Holmes is the conference’s leading hitter. After 41 games, Holmes has established a .359 hitting percentage.

Two other NIU players are in that list. Jamie Steenblock’s .263 hitting percentage places her fourth and Anne Polaski is seventh with .228 percent.

Notre Dame and NIU also have the top two conference setters. Taryn Collins, a sophomore setter for the Irish, is 10th in the nation with 645 assists and is the top conference setter. NIU’s Beth Glisk follows with 395 assists. She averages 11.73 sets per game.