Spikers hit the road to begin Mid-Con play


If volleyball games were decided by spirit and energy, NIU would need only two players to defeat the University of Illinois at Chicago in straight games.

Under normal conditions, most coaches with a 7-1 record would be riding high into conference play, but UIC head coach Don August seems to be the exception. Instead of placing them on a pillar, he dug them in the ground, almost claiming there was no competition in their previous eight matches.

“Northern Illinois has seen some tougher competition having played in the University of California-Santa Barbara Classic, while we’ve played some weaker schools. I don’t know if you would consider our competition cupcakes, but it hasn’t been the same as Northern’s,” said August.

It almost seems like the Huskies have more respect for UIC then UIC does for themselves.

“This is our first game against Northern this year, and there’s really nothing we can do about it. We can try to win, but if we don’t it’s not the end of the world,” said August.

UIC is already setting up this weekend as one of no concern. It doesn’t matter to them if they win or lose, or so they say. Although August has announced his pre-season favorite as NIU, beating them doesn’t seem to be one of his goals.

“I wouldn’t consider it a disadvantage playing against Northern first, but we have no control over what happens and we’ll try to just not worry about it,” said August.

Saturday’s game against Valparaiso University seems to be the more competitive of the two, even though VU is only carrying a 4-5 record. NIU’s head coach Pete Waite describes Valparaiso as a, “smarter team that plays with a little more emotion (than UIC).”

NIU is coming off one week of rest after playing on the west coast, and VU has been hard at work taking two of their last three matches. Leading the way for the Lady Crusaders will be Paige Craig, who has already registered 88 digs this year and last year’s Freshman of the Year, Lauren Struss who has recorded 124 kills.

On the Huskie’s side will be Player of the Week Becky Ramsey. After only eight games Becky has 94 kills minus 25 errors in 214 attempts for a .322 hitting clip. She is second on the team in digs with 107 and block assists with 17. Kori Schauer has been amazing on the attack racking up 139 kills while Nikki Kozak leads the team on defense with 112 digs.

Starting the conference season with a 2-0 record is something the Huskies would enjoy very much and with the determination they possess it is very attainable.

“It’s really important to get started out right now. Obviously coming off last year’s undefeated record in conference we will have some high goals for ourselves as to do the same this year and we don’t plan on letting anyone thinking they can play with us,” said Waite.

It’s easy to see how a coach with a team like this can be so excited about getting the conference underway. Now that they have the first two weeks under their belt and a great feeling inside about their performance at the tournament in California, they can set their sights high on a conference championship.

“We actually have a couple of different sections throughout the season and this is the most important one,” said Waite “Obviously because we’re number one, winning the round robin and being first seeded, that’s our first goal. Once we get to the tournament, then (our next goal) is to win the tournament.”