Sept. 15, 2008
DeKalb, Ill. - The Northern Illinois softball team released its 2009 schedule today that will feature challenging games against nine NCAA tournament teams from 2008 along with a trip back home to Fresno, Calif. for head coach Lindsay Chouinard. The Huskies open the season on Friday, February 20 in Houston, Texas at 11 a.m. CST against Prairie View A&M as part of a tournament hosted by the University of Houston.
"Competing in my hometown is something I wanted for this team," said Chouinard. "I am extremely proud of how far this program has come in two years. I think bringing these very special components of my life together, two parts that I enjoy and am honored to be associated with, is something to be celebrated. Plus, this team will get a taste of how I grew up when my mom hosts us for dinner."
Other highlights from the schedule include 14 home dates, four games against Big Ten opponents (Illinois, Wisconsin, Northwestern and Michigan State), three games versus Big East foes (Pittsburgh, DePaul and Notre Dame) and 10 contests with intrastate schools.
"The schedule is much more balanced this year," Chouinard said. "Having preseason on the road followed by a couple weeks at home will allow this group to harness adversity and achieve their goals simultaneously. This schedule has put this team in a position to succeed."
The Huskies will have their home-opener on Wednesday, March 18 against Loyola Chicago as part of an eight-game homestand that will feature games against Valparaiso, their Mid-American Conference opener with Akron and another MAC matchup versus Ohio.
NIU will have 11 games versus 2008 NCAA tournament qualifiers, starting with a road contest with Houston on Sunday, February 22 at 9 a.m. The Huskies will also have two games apiece against Western Illinois and MAC foe Kent State on the road in addition to road games against Northwestern, Fresno State, Notre Dame and DePaul. Northern Illinois will have neutral site matchups with California and Brigham Young in Fresno.
"Playing teams with post season experience really creates multiple opportunities for this team," said Chouinard. "The team can learn from great programs, grow in the game, step up to a challenge, and most importantly, we have the opportunity to win."
The first of 10 matchups against intrastate schools will be the Huskies' second game of the year as they face Illinois on February 20 in Houston at 1 p.m. NIU's only three home games versus Illinois schools will be a doubleheader with Loyola Chicago and a game versus Illinois State. The Huskies will have doubleheaders on the road against Illinois-Chicago and Western Illinois, and single games versus DePaul and Northwestern.
"Having success against local area competition is critical to gain respect regionally," Chouinard said. "The state of Illinois has made tremendous strides in creating national presence in our sport. Being able to compete and defeat those teams can only raise the level of this program."
The 2009 MAC tournament will take place in Akron, Ohio from May 7-10.
For the complete schedule go to: http://niuhuskies.cstv.com/sports/w-softbl/sched/niu-w-softbl-sched.html.