Softball ready for season opener in Houston


As students on campus rush to their morning classes in the frigid cold today, the NIU softball team will be in Houston, Texas for its season opener.

The Huskies will kick off the 2009 season against Prairie View A&M in the Marriott Houston Classic at Cougar Softball Stadium. The game will start at 9 a.m.

But the day does not stop there for NIU. After the 9 a.m. game, the Huskies have a date against No. 5 Texas A&M at 11 a.m.

On Saturday, the Huskies face in-state rival Illinois at 3 p.m., followed by a matchup against No. 13 Houston at 7 p.m.. NIU will close out the classic with a Sunday morning contest against Mcneese State. First pitch is scheduled for 9 a.m.

Second-year head coach Lindsay Chouinard is excited for the season to start even with an influx of five freshmen and three transfers.

“We’re definitely young,” Chouinard said. “We have a lot of new talent in eight new players, and all are going to contribute. It’s going to be a big change, but I’m excited about it.”

The Huskies non-conference schedule for this season will present many challenges. After seeing two ranked teams this weekend, NIU will face four more before the year is finished. The Huskies are slated to face No. 17 California and No. 14 Fresno State in the Bingham Toyota Classic in California. NIU will also travel to play DePaul and Northwestern, both ranked in the top-15 preseason poll.

“We are playing some tough opponents in our preseason tournaments and that’s good for the team,” Chouinard said. “How else do you get better than to play the best? We get to see what’s out there and what level we should be playing at.”

The tough non-conference schedule will set the table for conference play when the Huskies host Akron on March 27 for a doubleheader.

“I think it’s always good to challenge them in the beginning so that they can figure it out,” Chouinard said. “By the time MAC play rolls around, they are prepared.”