NIU crashes in at No. 11

By Rob Bolton

No need to look twice, these ladies are for real.

This past Monday, the first Division I Mideast Regional volleyball rankings were announced. Last year, the Huskies could ‘only’ peek at the No. 15 slot (which they did four times).

This week, they enter at No. 11.

“They love it,” said smiling assistant coach Lori Dailey, discussing the reaction of the team on the poll. “It’s a big goal to work for. They try and go out there just to get ranked … now, ranked four places better than they ever were … and for the first time in the polls (this year).”

NIU gathered 37 points in the ranks that consist of 115 schools, producing the largest region in the country.

At the top stands the University of Illinois with 120 points, followed by Nebraska with 109, then Penn State at 105.

Just above NIU in 10th is Purdue with 48 points. Ironically, the Boilermakers were the last netters who defeated the Huskies before the NIU ladies rattled off 18 straight games in six straight matches, the streak on which they currently ride.

Illinois State, where NIU plays next Tuesday, is 14th with 22 points.

But the most impressive factoid about the rankings is the Huskies have a history of beating up the teams at whom they look up.

“For instance, we beat Illinois last spring and it’s basically the same team coming back, so it would be really interesting to see a match vs. Illinois,” bragged Dailey. “In the spring season, (teams) don’t use their seniors. Obviously, it didn’t matter with us since we didn’t have any seniors. Ohio State (at 5th with 88 points), we beat last spring; Southwest Missouri State (9th with 53 pts.), we crushed.

“It’s very exciting to be at the same level as all those schools.

“But (the Huskies) don’t take it for granted because they know how hard they have worked to get to that point.”

With the way the ladies have been performing this fall, the polls will always reserve a spot for NIU.