Radtke brings defense-first mentality


Sophomore middle blocker Jenna Radtke (5) spikes the ball against the Colorado Buffaloes Aug. 30 at Victor E. Court. Radtke has excelled on the defensive side of the ball but is working to improve her entire game.

By Rhema Rhea

Producing on the court after a successful freshman campaign is not always a for-sure thing with a potential sophomore slump on the horizon, but sophomore Jenna Radtke seems to have caught on.

Radtke, a 6-foot-2 middle blocker, had a memorable beginning to her Huskies career as she was named to the 2013 MAC All-Freshman Team. The Buffalo Grove native started all 32 matches for NIU, and her 28.5 attack percentage was the second-best on the team during the 2013 season.

Radtke credits her early season surge in 2014 to the continued support of her teammates and the volleyball staff. She said her overall game is still improving and one of her favorite things to do is play defense.

“I love every part of the game, but there’s nothing better than getting a good block,” Radtke said.

Radtke’s name appears quite a bit atop the blocking category as she is the team leader in solo blocks (six), blocks assisted (17), total blocks (23) and blocks per set (0.66). The sophomore is still behind her 2013 pace of 0.95 blocks per set, which was seventh-best in the conference, but she’s working on improving.

“I think I can work on my block a little bit, like where I locate my hands,” Radkte said “I think we’re going to work on that in practice, and hopefully we can get better with that as a whole team.”

After a slow start to the 2014 campaign for Radtke, head coach Ray Gooden said she appears to be on the right pace to return to the conversation as one of the top young middle blockers in the MAC.

“We’re getting there; I think we’re building on it,” Gooden said. “As a freshman the target isn’t on you, and as a sophomore you learn people start to key on you a little more, so she is learning that and I think from that she’s learning and improving [on] it as much as she can.”

NIU is off to a 6-4 start and Gooden said his sophomore is one of the many parts that gets the offense rolling, especially as of late with the Huskies winning three of their last four games.

“I’ve seen some flashes of improvement,” Gooden said. “I think she understands that she’s an important piece to our puzzle, and I think she has made some positive steps and is going to keep working and improving. She’s done some positive things for us.”