Book closes on rewarding year

By Todd McMahon

In the aftermath of NIU’s season-ending loss to Purdue on Sunday, the battle cry from the Huskies is “we can’t wait until Nov. 1.”

Although the Boilermakers dumped the Huskies 98-62 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, another lesson was gained by Jane Albright-Dieterle’s young team.

Out of the 11 players that saw action against Purdue, nine will be returning for the 1992-93 campaign, which begins two weeks later than usual because of a new NCAA rule.

Even more encouraging is four starters from the 18-14 team will be returning and vying to keep their positions.

“This was a season I’ll always remember,” Albright-Dieterle said. “We beard down these last few weeks. We’re young but talented.

“I think we went further than the general public expected. We finished on an upbeat note. I’m disappointed we lost Sunday, but we gained a tremendous amount of confidence from it. We’ve put the house back up.”

All season NIU was overcoming huge obstacles and gaining confidence from each one. The Huskies finished the regular season at 14-13 but knew they were too good to have the season end then.

They had to go through the rigors of playing one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country. In the first month of the season, NIU knocked off Michigan State and upset then-No. 6 Stephen F. Austin.

Even though they lost each time, the Huskies also gained invaluable experience from playing national powers Tennessee, Utah, Washington, DePaul, Florida State and Northwestern.

All told, NIU went head-to-head with six teams in this year’s NCAA tourney-field. Next year, the Huskies are tentatively scheduled to face two more tourney teams—USC and Iowa.

“We’re a lot younger than what it says on paper,” Albright-Dieterle said. “It was only E.C.‘s (Hill) first year and Cindy’s (Conner) second year.

“We accomplished two major feats this year. We beat a Top-10 team (Stephen F. Austin) and beat a higher-seeded team (Louisiana Tech) in the NCAA Tournament.”

NIU loses the “complete package” that Dee Dee Jeske and Tracy Mondek brought to the program, but next season looks to be one wrapped with many more accomplishments.