Volleyball team lacks the magic

By Adam Zolmierski

The sky was the limit a season ago. Excitement was inevitable with the volleyball team last year just like it is with the football squad this year.

Oh, but how things can change in a flash.

A year after winning the MAC outright, the volleyball team is in jeopardy of failing to qualify for the conference tournament.

It shouldn’t be surprising, though. The team that dominated the MAC last year just isn’t as good as previously thought.

The Huskies went through so much turmoil in the offseason that all the team’s chemistry disappeared.

The MAC Player of the Year Jenny Bowman isn’t here this season, which is hurting the Huskies immensely.

Bowman transferred to Long Beach State and now isn’t playing much on one of the better teams in the nation.

If anyone thought a new, experienced setter could be brought in and succeed immediately, he was wrong. Bowman was one of the best setters in the nation, and it showed on the court as her passing and setting was so crisp that she made everyone around her better.

No offense to Jenny Rohren who sees most of the time as setter for NIU now, but the only thing that her and Bowman have in common is their names.

NIU also lost three seniors a year ago, junior Coley Johnsen to injury and Daren Poe and Bowman who transferred.

Now Melissa Benson, Alex Hofmann and Rohren don the Cardinal and Black, and with them are three new freshmen; Kerri Royer, Megan Sprangers and Marie Zidek.

With chemistry being one of the main factors for success in sports, it was farfetched to believe that all these new players were going to click right away and repeat last season’s success.

Then to top everything off, a new coach was added to the mix. Ray Gooden came over from Loyola looking to propel the program back to the top of the MAC again.

That may well happen, but in all honesty it doesn’t look like NIU, even if they make the tournament, will advance far. The team has just played too inconsistently all year long, which is something that didn’t happen at all a year ago.

The inconsistency has been baffling. It almost seems like the team feels it is good enough to turn it on and off whenever it wants. However, the brutal truth is that this team isn’t as good as last season’s.

Heart and chemistry are just as important, if not more, than talent. The Huskies have plenty of talent and could even make another run at the crown as early as next season. It was just unfair to think that the team would be able to gel this season with all the controversy that surrounded it.

This situation is quite similar to when former NIU coach Todd Kress took over the program in 1999. The team came off of three consecutive years of making the NCAA tournament and then went 10-15 in Kress’ first season.

Then in 2000, life was restored in the program and NIU won 24 games. And in 2001, the team won the MAC.

So with four matches left, the Huskies could very well find themselves as the eighth seed in the conference tournament. But don’t expect too much out of the team … at least not yet.