Panthers’ ‘best performance’ still not enough


Eastern Illinois University (2-2, 5-9) needed to play at their best Friday night to pull off the upset that would have stunned everyone in the Mid-Continent Conference, but after dropping a 14-12 lead in the first game, EIU once again seemed harmless.

While pounding down four more points to take the first of a three game match, NIU (6-0, 12-2) showed Eastern they not only seem unbeatable in Mid-Con play but also how they earned that number six ranking in the Mideast Region.

After giving up the first six points of the second game, NIU came back posting ten unanswered points and put the game on cruise control.

“We came ready to play, but just weren’t playing well,” said NIU head coach Pete Waite. “Eastern was putting on their best performance of the year. We were finally more relaxed toward the end of the second game and into the third.”

With a .464 hitting clip and 16 kills, senior middle blocker Kori Schauer came ready to combat any problems she encountered. Following closely behind was Amy Foulke whose impressive numbers, 16 kills minus three errors in 28 attempts, gave Waite confidence in what he thought would occur if NIU was ever tested.

Since the beginning of conference play, Waite has always insisted that should a team come out strong and play well, NIU will overcome their strength and pull out a victory due to the great depth the team has built within the last four years.

Although Becky Ramsey might not have been one of the dominating offensive forces on Friday (8K, 6E, .083), she exploded for an .846 hitting percentage as she killed 11 Raider balls in 13 attempts, an NIU high this season for players with more than ten attempts.

“I just tried to pull out of it. I knew I could do better (than Friday night) and I just wanted to prove to that myself,” said Ramsey.

After knocking off Wright State University (4-1, 8-6) in the first two games 15-8 and 15-1 Waite had a chance to experiment with his team’s formation in the final game by moving Holly Bauer and Schauer in the middle and Foulke to the left in the outside hitter position.

“We’ve been working on that formation in practices,” said Waite. “Our middle position is deep enough that we can move some to the outside spot.”

NIU didn’t expect this weekend to come as close as it did but they did know they would have to come out strong.

“We didn’t feel good about the first two games against Eastern Illinois, so when we met with Wright State the players had it in their minds that they were going to start strong,” Waite said. “This was a good weekend for us. Eastern’s coach told me that her team played the best she has ever seen them play. If we can work to come back like that against a team that is hot, I think that says a lot about this group’s character.”

With NIU’s depth coupled with it’s new found character and versatility, the road to the NCAA seems to be in sight. So does, however, a mid-season trip to Houston where they will face a level of competition they haven’t seen since California.