NIU earning recognition

By John Dietz

After taking care of its first three opponents over the weekend, head coach Pete Waite’s powerhouse squad is shining brightly and hungry for more.

Losing a match in Ohio was never really threatening Waite’s squad and senior Wendy Mason attributes this fact to the overall team play.

“The whole team played so well that any one of us could have been chosen to the (all-tournament) team,” Mason said.

For Mason it was her fourth consecutive selection in less than two seasons. After that kind of recognition, you may think Mason would come to expect such honors.

Not so.

“I don’t expect it. It’s a big honor for people to notice my play,” Mason said. “With the way we all played as a team, this one was a real honor.”

Sharing in all-tourney honors with Mason was junior Amy Foulke. She echoed Mason’s thoughts that being selected was an honor and also saw the team progress out of some opening jitters.

“The first two games against Kent State and Temple, we didn’t play as well as we could have,” Foulke said. “Against Bowling Green is where we turned it on.”

Another bright spot for the Huskies were the two players that returned from surgery last season. Kori Schauer, who was named Mid-Continent Conference Player of the Week Tuesday, and Nikki Kozak both received rave reviews after their tournament performances.

“Both Kori and Nikki were coming off surgery and ended up having a great weekend for us,” Waite said.

Schauer had reconstructive surgery on her ankle, but she bombarded her opponents with a team-high 31 kills.

“I’m happy with how I played,” Schauer said. “Defensively I still need to work on my blocking. Offensively, I’m pleased; I just need to not make as many errors as I did last weekend

One of the big reasons NIU was blowing out their opponents also came on the defensive end. Shelby Snyder came out of the gates to have a tournament to remember.

“Shelby Snyder had one of the best defensive tournaments of her career,” Waite said.

Snyder, NIU’s primary setter, attributes part of her success over the weekend to Waite calling her attention to other aspects of her game.

“Coach talked to me about definitely setting my mind that I wasn’t going to be just a setter,” Snyder said. “I played every point thinking every dig was mine. I expected every ball to come right to me, so I was ready for every ball.”

Snyder had a team-high 34 digs.

Waite and his squad will have a tougher task at hand when they take on their next three opponents: Purdue, Miami (Ohio) and Pittsburgh this weekend.

“Purdue is strong in the Big Ten. We lost both matches to them last year and Pittsburgh was nationally ranked last year,” Waite said.

However, Waite feels his team is ready for the challenge.

“After this last weekend, it gave us a ton of confidence,” Waite said. “Whoever we play, we’ll have confidence that we can beat them.”