Kozak deceives Huskie opponents

By John Dietz

When volleyball fans think of a typical spiker, many envision a Kori Schauer who stands at 6-4 or Amy Foulke who is 6-0.

Well, Nikki Kozak out of Winfield stands at 5-7 and is the shortest of NIU’s outside hitters. To compensate for size, Kozak tries to outsmart the defense when it comes to her offensive attacks.

Whereas many players like Schauer or Foulke try to pummel the ball over the defenders, Kozak often uses a different method.

She will try and deflect her attack off a defensive block, “anytime there’s a double block up. It depends on how big the blockers are,” Kozak said.

After an injury-plagued season last year in which Kozak needed surgery on her shoulder, things seem to be back to normal for her on the court.

“It’s getting easier to focus more on the team,” Kozak said.

Kozak also added that head coach Pete Waite was resting her shoulder early in the season but feels that won’t be necessary for the remainder of the year.

Her attack proficiency has also rebounded after last season. In 1991 Kozak was hitting at a .089 kill clip. Thus far in 1992, that number has nearly doubled to .172.

While the offensive side of the game will always remain a part of Kozak’s game, defense is what she truly enjoys most about playing.

In 1991 she set a single-season record with 485 digs and has amassed more than 1,000 for her career at NIU. How did it feel to achieve this milestone?

“It was exciting because defense is my favorite part of the game,” Kozak said. “Defense is all guts and determination. Size can’t hold me back.”

However, Kozak added that she doesn’t like to focus on the individual numbers of the game. It’s the team that comes first.

As far as the team goes, Kozak has no illusions about where she’d like them to be at the end of the season.

First things first. Win the Mid-Continent Conference and stay undefeated in league play.

Next comes the inevitable invite to the NIVC tournament. When asked about how the team expects to do, her answer was short and simple.

“Win it.”

Woooo. There’s some pretty good competition in that tournament. Can she be serious?

“I think it’ll be tough,” Kozak said. “We definitely want to get to the finals. We learned in California that we just need to have confidence in ourselves.”