Mid-Con tourney comes NIU’s way

By John Dietz

The Mid-Continent Conference volleyball tournament is coming to DeKalb’s Chick Evans Field House this weekend.

NIU has fought all season for the right to host the post-season tourney and succeeded by posting a perfect 16-0 record in the league.

The top-seeded Huskies (27-5 overall) will face No. 4 seed Illinois-Chicago (9-7, 17-14) in the first round Friday at 7 p.m. The other first-round match is between No. 2 seed Eastern Illinois (14-2, 23-10) and No. 3 seed Western Illinois (10-6, 13-13) Friday at 5 p.m.

The winners meet Saturday at 3 p.m. for the championship.

Although the Huskies are heavily favored to win and receive the automatic bid to the National Invitational Volleyball Championships, head coach Pete Waite conceded that an NCAA Tournament bid is of greater importance.

“There’s no doubt we want to go to the NCAA Tournament,” Waite said. “It’s the more prestigious tournament.”

The Huskies are currently ranked No. 8 in the Mideast Region, and although the top nine went last year, it does not guarantee an invite to the tournament this time around.

“I’d say we’re right on the bubble,” Waite said. “With 32 teams going and we’re right around 30 to 35, it’s very difficult to tell.”

With an NCAA bid on the line, Waite hopes to see the kind of crowd that showed up to give their support all season long. However, because many students will be away on break, the numbers may be down slightly.

One big reason the tournament is being held over break stems from the extra week the Huskies wanted to utilize to take on the upper-echelon teams on the West Coast.

Waite still expects a good crowd for the final home appearances of what could be the finest NIU volleyball team ever.

“It’s a great time for people who are off of work or have some extra free time to come out and see a few matches,” Waite said. “For these people, this will be the last time they will be able to see this volleyball team on the court.

“We’ve had good crowds all year. If we can continue with that, it would be great.”