The top 10 must-see Huskie athletes


By Tom Burton

Students are encouraged to put the books aside once in a while and check out everything NIU Division I athletics has to offer, including some of the athletes expected to turn heads this school year.

Sean T. Frazier, Associate Vice President and Director of Athletics, said community support is key for the program to succeed.

“We always want to play at the highest level, no matter what sport,” Frazier said. “To have students, faculty and [the community] show up at games means everything as an athlete. The level of completion is excellent, and [people] are missing out.”

Here’s a look at some of the primary athletes that will draw fans in.

10. Meg Wolowicz, volleyball senior middle blocker

The volleyball team struggled during non-conference play in 2017, but found its stride late in the season and finished with a respectable 7-9 Mid-American Conference record.

A big reason for the Huskies’ success was Wolowicz’s play, which tallied 288 kills and a team-high 20 blocks in the season.

“I just want to help the team out as much as I possibly can this season,” Wolowicz said. “I’m excited to get competing again with all the girls. We have a team that really cares about each other, and I think that’s so special.”

Wolowicz ranked No. 7 in the MAC in blocks and was a conference all first-team selection. She had a busy offseason competing in the USA Volleyball Women’s National Team open tryout March 2. Wolowicz recorded a career-high of 24 kills in Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Xavier in the NIU Invitational. Her success over the weekend earned her All-Tournament Team honors.

Entering her final season with the Huskies, Wolowicz should be an anchor for an NIU front line who will look to electrify Victor E. Court and rebound from an 8-23 record this past year. She was also named to the preseason All-MAC team.

9. Marcus Childers, football redshirt sophomore quarterback

Childers was one of the biggest stories from the football team’s 8-4 regular season in 2017 as he went from the third string quarterback to NIU’s starter.

The Adairsville, Georgia product took over the starting role in NIU’s week five matchup Oct. 7 against Kent State and led the team to a 6-2 record from that point.

“He’s in the middle of taking the next step, which is what we were hoping he was ready to do, and he is in the process of doing that,” Head Coach Rod Carey said. “In terms of operation [of the offense], leadership and timing, those things are going really well.”

Childers accumulated 2147 yards total offense in nine games, including the Huskies’ 36-14 loss to Duke in the Quick Lane Bowl Dec. 2. The MAC Freshman of the Year will need to help the team build after losing prime offensive players from last season to graduation.

8. Michael Lasiewicz, sophomore baseball pitcher

The Huskies found a gem this past season in the young arm of Michael Lasiewicz, who was typically the second starter for the Huskie ball club in 2018.

The McHenry native finished the season with a 3.72 earned run average and fanned 82 batters while only walking 37.

The NIU pitching staff was inconsistent in 2018, but not because of the freshman standout Lasiewicz. His 90 mph fastball is worth the trip out to Ralph McKinzie Field in the spring.

7. Jenny Van Geertry, senior softball outfielder

The rise of Van Geerty’s play in 2017 has made her a must-see player heading into to her senior season for the 2019 campaign.

She held a .400 batting average in a 22-game stretch from March 16 to April 28 last season. She also assumed the role of leadoff hitter and finished the season with a team-best .385 average, which also ranked third in the MAC.

There wasn’t much Van Geerty couldn’t do on the field last season, but expect her to make an even bigger jump in 2019. When she steps up to the plate, fans at Mary M. Belle Field can usually expect a baserunner.

6. Anna Martucci, senior gymnast

2018 was a breakout season for MAC Specialist of the Year, Martucci, as she made her first appearance in the NCAA regionals.

She was named to the first team all MAC in the regular season and was a five-time specialist of the week during the year. The highlight of Martucci’s season was March 4 against Western Michigan where she tallied a 9.975 on the floor routine, the best score from a Huskie since 1995.

With Martucci’s co-captains Ashley Potts and Katherine Prentice graduated, look for Martucci to lead the Huskies on and off the mat in 2019.

5. Max Scharping, redshirt senior football offensive lineman

Sitting in the bleachers to watch an offensive lineman may not sound like the most exciting thing to do, but Max Scharping is a must-see player for the football team this season.

He is exactly the type of player a young quarterback like Marcus Childers needs anchoring his offensive line. Scharping has not allowed a sack since Dec. 23, 2015, against Boise State at the Poinsettia Bowl.

Scharping’s recent success has him pegged as the No. 6 ranked offensive lineman in all of college football, according to a July 26 USA Today article.

Fans should get in line to watch Scharping now because watching him at NIU will be much cheaper than watching him in the NFL.

4. Courtney Woods, senior women’s basketball guard

The women’s basketball team as a whole is exciting to watch year-after-year, but Woods is the engine driving its momentum forward.

The Huskies had a couple of tough blows when guards Myia Starks and Janae Poisson went down with torn ACLs. The shorthanded team finished the season with a 15-15 record, and Woods was a big reason why.

She poured in 22.1 points a game, which ranked No. 1 in the MAC and No. 10 in the nation, according to ESPN. Her 664 points last season was the most by a Huskie junior in university history.

With the team’s health restored heading into the 2018-19 season, look for Woods to continue sinking the ball in the basket and lead the team to another MAC playoff push.

3. Jehvania Whyte, senior track and field jumper

Huskie fans may not have a lot of chances to see Whyte compete in person, but it’s worth the trip with the Track & Field team to see her perform.

Whyte continued to break her own personal bests and currently holds the school record for the triple jump at 11.92 meters. She also became NIU’s first Mid-American Conference outdoor triple jump champion.

Her success garnered her All-American recognition in the indoor and outdoor season. She is the third person in the history of the NIU Women’s Track and Field program to become an All-American.

The Kingston, Jamaica native truly excels in her sport and is one of the best athletes NIU has to showcase.

2. Eugene German, junior men’s basketball guard

German represented one of the few bright spots of the men’s basketball team’s 2017 season, putting his name on the map with impressive play.

The Gary, Indiana product scored in double figures in all 32 games of his sophomore season and poured in 659 total points, the third-most in a single season in NIU history.

German led the Mid-American Conference in scoring at 20.6 points per game and was named to the All-MAC Second Team, along with the National Association of Basketball Coaches All-District 14 First Team.

German recently threw his name in the hat in the recent 2018 NBA draft, but eventually decided to withdraw and return to NIU for his junior season. With the NBA being on German’s radar, fans should catch him at the Convocation Center while he’s still here.

1. Sutton Smith, redshirt junior football defensive end

Sutton Smith’s emerged as NIU’s biggest story, leaving his mark in every defensive category and being the motor behind a staunch Huskie defense.

Smith led the nation in sacks (14), tackles for loss (29.5) and quarterback pressures (73) last season, according to ESPN. These stats led to him being named a consensus All-American, making him the second player in NIU football history to earn All-American status since LeShon Johnson in 1993.

Other accolades for Smith include being named Mid-American Conference defensive player of the year, breaking NIU’s single season record for tackles for loss and becoming a finalist for the 2017 Ted Hendricks Award as the nation’s best defensive end.

To see Smith and the rest of the top-10 athletes, students can attend NIU Athletics events for free with presentation of their NIU OneCard. Non-students can purchase tickets for football and basketball on NIU Athletics’ official website. All other athletic events are free to the public.