March 26, 2014
DeKALB, Ill. – As winter (slowly) turns to spring, so too does the Northern Illinois University volleyball teams turn their attention ahead to the 2014 season, as they enter the thick of their spring schedule.
Much like football, the NCAA allows volleyball teams to participate in spring practices. However, unlike their fall counterpart, volleyball spring schedules are highlighted by weekend tournaments and – for some schools – mid-week head-to-head contests between in-state and regional rivals. According to NIU head coach Ray Gooden, these contests give the team an opportunity to improve as a team.
“The biggest thing we try to do is show improvement,” he said. “I think a lot of it is from an individual standpoint because in the fall we’re really focused just on our team and our team-building. I think individuals get a chance to work on improving on some things that we want to try and do for the following fall.”
“I think we’ve seen positive improvements for the majority of our players, if not all. Now we hope we can just transfer into game play and that’s why we try to play as many games as we do.”
The Huskies started their spring slate March 22, when they hosted the annual Salvani Playdate. NIU was quite successful on the court, winning all their matches and not dropping a single set in the process. Yet, more important than the results is the progress made on the court.
“We know when we play Salvani, we can have teams from all different types of divisions and region,” Gooden said. “It’s really about trying to get some game experience. That’s the biggest thing for us. We saw some improvement throughout the day. The good thing for us is we played 12 sets and still played physically strong. They’re in pretty good shape, so I think that helps us moving forward.”
Saturday, NIU faces a pair of experienced opponents when they host Missouri Valley Conference foe Northern Iowa and Premier Volleyball League club Badger Blizzards in the Huskie Tournament. In both instances, it gives the Huskies an opportunity to makes gains against two veteran-laden squads.
“I think the good thing is that we get the chance to play high-level competition and that helps us,” Gooden said. “Now it’s a good chance for our group to do some things to improve as individuals and also as a unit.”
Saturday’s action starts at 9 a.m. inside Victor E. Court. Admission is free for the entire tournament.