July 11, 2012
DeKALB, Ill. - The Northern Illinois volleyball team added three players during the recent late recruiting period, NIU Head Coach Ray Gooden announced Wednesday. With the addition of Alexis "Pookie" Gonzalez (Fresno, Calif./Bullard), Rachael Yordon (Schaumburg, Ill./James B. Conant), and Lauren Zielinski (Oak Forest, Ill./Marist), the Huskies added quality depth at the setter, middle blocker, and defensive specialist positions, respectively.
"We are fortunate to find three players like these in the late recruiting period to help make us deeper and potentially stronger for the future," Gooden said. "I think all three could make contributions for us in their various roles. We are just really excited to have them in the gym to help us continue to develop on our success."
Gonzalez comes from a great bloodline as her father, Francisco, played tennis at Gooden's alma mater Ohio State and was ranked as high as No. 34 in the world professionally. His daughter has followed his footsteps closely, as she was a highly-successful four-year varsity letterwinner in volleyball, tennis, and badminton at Bullard High School.
The 5'9" setter led Bullard to a 70-30 record (29-1 in County Metro Athletic Conference play) in her final three years for three straight conference championships. She was named first team all-conference and led the team in aces in each of her final three seasons. She earned second team all-conference honor as a freshman. As a senior, she registered 183 kills, 285 digs, 793 assists, 65 aces, and 32 blocks. She had 230 kills, 130 digs, 409 assists, 43 aces, and 19 blocks as a junior. As a sophomore, she tallied 69 kills, 115 digs, 847 assists, 50 aces, and 28 blocks.
"Pookie brings depth for us at setter," said Gooden. "I think she will get a chance to challenge for that setting spot right away. She's going to be able to come in with a different style of setting, which I think will be good for our team."
As a tennis player, Gonzalez won a sectional championship in doubles as a sophomore and senior and was named first team all-conference all four years.
In badminton, Gonzalez won the sectional championship and was named first team all-conference and Team MVP in all four seasons. She is the first four-time badminton sectional champion in school history.
Yordon was a two-year varsity starting libero for James B. Conant High School. As a senior, the 5'5" defensive specialist was named to the Daily Herald's Northwest All-Area Team after leading the Mid-Suburban League with 431 digs, while also recording a serve reception percentage of 92 and racking up 48 aces. As a junior, she earned a special mention in the Daily Herald's 2010 Northwest All-Area Team.
"Rachael brings us good depth to an already strong defensive core," said Gooden.
Zielinski was a three-year varsity letterwinner at Marist as she had to sit out her senior season due to a torn right labrum. The 6'4" middle blocker helped Marist post a 100-20 record (35-3 in East Suburban Catholic Conference play) as the RedHawks won conference championships in 2010 and 2011. She led the RedHawks to a regional championship as a sophomore and sectional championship as a junior. In 2010, she tallied 208 kills with a .414 hitting percentage and 540 block assists in 40 matches to garner all-conference honors. As a sophomore, she turned in 144 kills with a .302 hitting percentage and 466 block assists in 37 matches to earn all-conference and the team's Most Improved Player honors. Zielinski also earned a varsity letter in basketball as a freshman.
"We are excited about Lauren as we continue to develop her speed and strength," said Gooden of his tallest recruit to come to NIU and tallest player in program history since Kori Schauer (1990-93), who also was listed at the same height. "She can be a strong contributing member of our program, not only this season but in the future as well."
The rookie trio will join the 11 returning Huskies from last year's NCAA Tournament and MAC Championship team for the 2012 campaign that begins with the annual NIU Invitational on August 24-26.