NIU enters league as odds-on favorite

By Todd McMahon

It was a day of firsts for women’s basketball and more specifically, for Jane Albright-Dieterle’s NIU program.

Here at the Drake Hotel on Wednesday, the women officially joined forces with the men at the Mid-Continent Conference’s Basketball Media Day. This season marks the first time the ladies will compete on the hardwood as members of the Mid-Con.

And judging by the preseason ballots, NIU should be able to carry over its domination from the North Star Conference to its new residence.

The Huskies, winners of last year’s North Star tournament, received a total of 223 points from the nine-school league’s athletic directors, senior women administrators, head women’s basketball coaches and sports information directors to garner first-place honors.

Wisconsin-Green Bay, which was the North Star’s regular-season champion a year ago, was a distant second in the balloting with 192 points. Valparaiso was next with 155 points, followed by newcomer Youngstown State and Wright State with 105 apiece, Cleveland State (100), Illinois-Chicago (97), Eastern Illinois (84) and Western Illinois (66).

NIU also dominated the individual accolades as well. Guards E.C. Hill (1992 NSC Newcomer of the Year) and Cindy Conner (1992 First-Team All-NSC) placed first and second,

respectively, in the all-conference poll. Only one point separated the Huskie duo.

“This is the first time I can stand up here and be able to say I have my top players coming back,” Albright-Dieterle said at the luncheon. “We have a lot of returning players … and we’re real excited about the year.

“We have five seniors returning. … The whole mood of your program is set by what your seniors do. And they’ve had a great preseason.”

Rounding out the Mid-Con preseason team were Valparaiso’s Debbie Bolen, Eastern Illinois’ Sheriel Brown, UIC’s Angela Gilbert and UWGB’s Dawn Schirmacher.