NIU back on familiar ground

By Brian Hayes

The NIU Huskie volleyball team is back.

They are back after two consecutive weekends of tournaments at Bowling Green and Miami of Ohio. The Huskies settle into Chick Evans Field House for a three-game homestand that begins tonight against Bradley at 7:00.

Coach Pete Waite thinks the home opener might be just the remedy for his injured and tired team.

“We won’t know about some of our injuries or how tired we are until practice today (Monday),” Waite said. “But I think it’s for the best that it is our home opener. It won’t be hard for the girls to get up for that.”

The injured are setter Shelby Snyder, who broke her little finger at the Miami tournament and still played on. Also on the mend is outside hitter Nikki Kozak, who aggravated her right shoulder, where she had off-season surgery. Both are expected to see some type of action tonight.

The tired are the Huskies in general. They played three matches over the weekend totaling 14 games. One of the matches involving NIU and Purdue lasted 2 hours and 35 minutes.

Bradley comes into tonight just as beaten and bruised as the Huskies. The Braves lost a brutal five-set match to Southern Illinois University on Saturday night by scores of 9-15, 15-5, 15-11, 13-15 and 15-17, after being up 14-11 in the decisive fifth set.

Bradley is playing without the services of its only senior, middle blocker Lisa Gehlhaar. She has an ankle sprain which limited her to just two minutes of playing time in the SIU match and leaves her questionable for tonight.

This has forced the Braves into rotating five freshmen and one sophomore. Leading the attack is freshman Cindy Novak, who registered 26 kills against the Salukis. Both are single-game and career highs for her.

The Huskies lead the all-time series 6-3. Last year NIU went into Peoria and swept the Braves in three sets by scores of 15-7, 15-8, 15-4. Waite anticipates an exciting match for those planning to attend.

“The level of play is there and the fans have a reason to be excited,” he said. “We have done more promotions within the community with the reading program and (tonight’s) faculty staff night.”