Top 5 Teams of Academic Year


The men’s tennis team finished the season with a 15-8 overall record, and a 5-1 Mid-American Conference record.

By Tom Burton

The stats are from games, meets and matches that occurred during the 2017-18 season. If you feel a team was left off or ranked higher, tweet us @NIUNorthernStar using #NIUTop5.

5. Women’s basketball

The record may not show it, but the women’s basketball team cracks the tail end of the top five teams after battling through a season of adversity.

The Huskies finished with a 15-15 overall record even though they lost two key sophomore guards Janae Poisson and Myia Starks to season-ending ACL tears.

Instead of throwing in the towel, the Huskies continued to battle and rallied around their three stars: junior guards Courtney Woods and Mikayla Voigt, along with senior forward Kelly Smith.

Of the Huskies’ No. 28-ranked 77.5 points a game, those three players accounted for 52.7 of them, according to the NCAA’s official website.

The shorthanded Huskies were a few possessions away from a different looking record, as eight of their 15 losses were by seven points or less.

NIU was bounced in the first round of the Mid-American Conference tournament March 5 with an 84-77 loss to Eastern Michigan University.

4. Women’s golf

The women’s golf team was in contention to win a majority of the tournaments it played during the 2017-18 season.

The Huskies closed out their year April 22 with a third-place finish at the MAC Championships to cap off an impressive season.

NIU finished in the top-five in eight of its 11 events, including opening the season with a win Sept. 11 at the Redbird Invitational in Normal.

The well-rounded Huskies had four different players lead the team in tournament scoring: juniors Kelly Anderson and Brielle Ward, sophomore Isabella Samudio and freshman Lauren Ingle.

Notable moments of the Huskies’ season included Ward winning the Bradley Invitational March 13 for the second consecutive year and Samudio firing a school-record score of 67 April 14 in the second round of the Lady Boilermaker Invitational.

With no players departing for graduation for this upcoming season, look for the women’s golf team to build on its success from its 2017-18 campaign and contend for a MAC Championship.

3. Gymnastics

The Huskie gymnasts provided some excitement this season and gave fans a reason to come to the Convocation Center because the reason certainly wasn’t to watch the lowly men’s basketball team.

The Huskies posted a 13-13 overall record and finished 3-3 in conference play after dropping eight of their first nine meets.

Senior all-around gymnasts Ashley Potts and Katherine Prentice, along with junior floor specialist Anna Martucci, were named NCAA Regional qualifiers.

Martucci also earned MAC Specialist of the Year honors, particularly because of her score of 9.975 March 4 on the floor routine. This was the highest individual mark since 1995 when Margaret Mroz hit a 10 on the same event.

Martucci’s success earned her the Female Athlete of the Year award Thursday at the 2018 “The Victors” award ceremony.

Head Coach Sam Morreale won Female Coach of the Year, and the team also took home the Female Team of the Year award at the event.

The Huskies finished the 2018 season on a strong note, winning the final five meets and are looking to carry that momentum into the upcoming campaign.

2. Football

The football team finished the 2017 season with an 8-4 regular season record but made a few headlines nobody could have expected.

In week three, the Huskies shocked the nation with a 21-17 win Sept. 16 against the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers in front of a capacity crowd of 89,664 at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska. This was NIU’s fourth win in the last five games against Big-10 opponents.

The Huskies began conference play with an undefeated 4-0 month of October and became bowl eligible Oct. 26 for the eighth time in the last nine seasons.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Marcus Childers proved to be NIU’s quarterback of the future after finishing the season with a 5-2 record.

The Huskies ranked No. 26 in the nation in total defense and had a brief stint in the top 10, according to the NCAA’s official website.

A big part of NIU’s solid defense was the emergence of redshirt sophomore defensive end Sutton Smith, as he tallied 29.5 tackles for a loss of 140 yards. He was named a first-team All-American MAC Defensive Player of the Year and the Male Athlete of the Year at “The Victors.”

1. Men’s tennis

The men’s tennis team lacks prominence and hardly ever plays in DeKalb, but is comprised of six individuals who make up the starting rotation for best team at NIU during the 2017-18 academic year.

The Huskies posted an overall record of 15-7 during the regular season and finished 5-1 in conference play.

The team that consistently stood in NIU’s way was the University at Buffalo Bulls, who accounted for two Huskie losses in the final three weeks of the season, including a 4-3 Buffalo win April 25 in the semifinal round of the MAC Tournament.

Redshirt freshman Kristopher Ortega was one of the main catalysts for NIU’s success as he posted a 21-12 overall record. He was awarded MAC Newcomer of the Year and was named to the conference first-team with senior teammate Eric Marbach.

The only defect for NIU was doubles play as it finished with a 3-8 record in that department during the spring season.

This is the seventh consecutive season the Huskies finished with a winning record and their consistent success deserves to be recognized.


Women’s tennis – The Huskies finished with an abysmal 5-17 overall record and went winless in MAC play. The team was truly outmatched in most contests but made very little rotational changes throughout the season, despite continuing to rack up losses.

Men’s soccer – The Huskies were hoping to rewrite a tough 2-10-1 season in 2016 under new Head Coach Ryan Swan, but finished the 2017 campaign with a 3-11-1 record, including not recording a win in the final nine games of the season.

Men’s basketball – The men’s basketball program is in a tough state after finishing the 2017 season with a 13-19 record and getting bounced in the first round of the MAC tournament again. Fan support has dwindled for this team, given the quiet, lifeless atmosphere at the Convocation Center during home games. Despite on-court issues, the team also had three players from last season request release.