A 27-9 record. A bid to the 1991 National Invitational Volleyball Championship. A team that consists of everyone from last year’s voracious squad.
Those are just a few of the many reasons why NIU volleyball coach Pete Waite is keyed up about the fervor of success just waiting to explode on the court this season.
“This is the strongest team in the five years I’ve been here coaching,” Waite said.
His team of 15 players is the most ever assembled on an NIU volleyball squad.
Wendy Mason, the team’s 1991 most valuable player, and 1990 MVP Becky Ramsey are both returning.
Kori Schauer (off-season ankle surgery) and Nikki Kozak (off-season shoulder surgery) are both returning to the starting six.
Junior Amy Foulke, fresh back from the Senior Elite Camp, also will be on the floor for the Huskies.
The Huskies have won 25 or more of their games three of the last four seasons and return with health, depth, experience and hunger.
Coach Waite brags, “We are more prepared to face anyone than anytime before. This team has the drive to succeed. They are hungry.”
Within this group of anxious women sits the security of accomplishment. This is a group of women who reached post-season play last year without a senior leading the charge. They also ranked 15th of 115 during the 1991 campaign in the Mideast Region, the largest region in the NCAA. It is no wonder why this volleyball team can go far.
And they will, too. Their toughest challenge will come from the spikes and dinks of Long Beach State University, the second-ranked team in the nation.
But the Huskies have their eyes set on another conference championship. They wrapped up the final North Star Conference Championship last season and gear toward the Mid-Continent Conference this season.
It will be a tough climb, however, to the top with the likes of Wright State, last year’s runner-up, and Illinois-Chicago, who came within just a couple of points from knocking NIU out of the conference semi-finals last season.
But Waite is still hopeful. “Our goal is to be better than we were yesterday,” he said. “We will work on our weaknesses until they no longer exist.”
The first test for this team of hungry Huskies commences against Kent State University at the Bowling Green State University Tournament on Sept. 4.
Scrimmage helps to solidify NIU
By Brian Wiencek
After a dismal 2-9 season, the Huskies wanted to get their 1992 campaign off as quickly as possible, and Saturday’s “Pigskin Pigout” at Huskie Stadium brought them one step closer to their Sept. 5 confrontation against the University of Illinois.
The festival, which was open to the public, included contact scrimmages between different levels of offense and defense.
In each of the three sets, there were 30 plays. 12 plays consisted of the first-string offense against the second-string defense.
Another 12 plays consisted of the first-string defense against the second-string offense, and the last six plays consisted of the third-string offense and defense.
The scrimmage helped everyone. Football fans received a close-up preview of the team, and the players got to practice in a game-like situation. More importantly, coach Charlie Sadler had a chance to witness what talent he has before him for the upcoming season.
The barrage of junior college transfers seems to be paying off for the Huskies. Defensive end Paul McAndrews, inside linebacker Larry Williams and outside linebacker Jeff Flight are all fighting for starting positions.
Barefooted Brian Steger, who transferred from UCLA, will own the kicking duties for the year.
Along with that, the Huskies look to be flooded with talent at the quarterback position for the first time since Stacey Robinson led the offense.
In Saturday’s scrimmage, senior Rob Rugai completed over 50 percent of his passes and threw for a touchdown, while junior college transfer Scott Crabtree threw for two touchdowns. However, there are no thoughts of a quarterback controversy for the second year in a row at NIU.
“There’s no controversy,” Sadler said. “We’ve got two guys working in that position right now, and I feel very good about both. We have strengthened that position, and I can see a situation this year where I feel comfortable with both guys playing.
“I feel much better about having two good quarterbacks than looking around and not having anybody.”
Overall, the Huskies prospered greatly from the scrimmage.
“It was a scrimmage that really went a long way to help solidify what possibly could be our starting line-up,” Sadler said.
Thanks to a great recruiting year and spring training, the Huskies should be able to contend with the likes of Illinois, Wisconsin and Southern Mississippi.