California provides bumpy times for NIU

By Rob Bolton

This time of year, southern California bodes well for the ones desiring warmth and isolation from the everyday norm.

Well, those amenities can compare to some of the characteristics of what awaits the NIU volleyball team the next time it hits the hardwood. Namely the warmth of the home court for its next two matches and the ability to return to the everyday norm—easier competition in the Mid-Continent Conference.

With the best overall record of the five schools represented in the Cal State Northridge Invitational, NIU was hoping to come away successful.

“We just couldn’t get things to click,” Huskie skipper Pete Waite admitted. “As the match went along, things got better but we weren’t playing as well as we did in the other matches.”

Sound good? On paper, no. Once the dust settled, the Huskies emerged in third place looking up at the host Matadors (4-0) and runner-up Cal Poly San Luis Obispo (3-1). Rounding off the rest were Nevada-Reno (1-3) and Cal State Fullerton (0-4).

Even though the Huskies went .500 (2-2) for the weekend, Waite remained optimistic.

“This whole trip was fantastic for us,” he said. “This gave us a good kick in the pants to remind us what we need to do as we enter the last bit of conference play.”

On Friday, the Huskies put the Wolfpack of UN-Reno (8-16) to sleep with a 10-15, 15-4, 15-2, 15-4 victory. In that match, little-used Dana Romans led NIU with a career-best performance. Romans notched 11 kills in 19 attempts against zero errors, tallying a lofty .578 hitting pct.

Once Waite’s ladies clinched their third-straight, 20-win season with the victory over the Wolfpack, Northridge was next.

Unfortunately, the Matadors (22-7) came away victors—15-6, 9-15, 15-11, 15-12. For the Huskies, Nikki Kozak was uncanny with 17 digs and 15 kills (in 48 attempts). Schauer blasted 16 kills (36 attempts) while Amy Foulke scored 14 kills (35 attempts) in the loss.

On Saturday, the wake-up call originated from Cal State Fullerton. The Titans were winless and still are (0-22) as NIU breezed by 15-4, 15-5, 15-11. Schauer set an invite record with an out-of-this-world .727 hitting pct. (17 kills, one error, 22 attempts). Her .404 clip (58 kills, 14 errors, 109 attempts) for the entire weekend set another record.

In the conclusion, the Huskies took on the Mustangs of Cal Poly SLO (19-7), who readily handed NIU (21-5) its fifth defeat of the season with a 15-8, 15-6, 14-16, 15-9 lesson. Kozak had 13 kills and 11 digs, the first of which gave her 1,000 for her career.

As a team, NIU set two invite records: 1) a .390 hitting pct. for one match (vs. the Titans) and 2) a .267 hitting pct. for the entire weekend.

Foulke and Schauer also received All-Tournament Team honors.

The weekend is just a memory now and the Huskies will hope to make history, as well, of the University of Illinois-Chicago on Friday.