Aug. 16, 2011
DeKALB, Ill. - The Northern Illinois volleyball team was chosen to win both the Mid-American Conference regular season and MAC Tournament titles as the league released its 2011 MAC Volleyball Preseason Poll Tuesday, as voted on by the league's head coaches. Senior setter Kristin Hoffman and sophomore outside hitter Lauren Wicinski were also selected to the MAC's first ever Preseason All-MAC team.
"I think it's great to be selected as one of the top teams in the MAC for the preseason," said 10th-year head coach Ray Gooden. "Like I continue to remind our group, last year Ball State was picked to finish fifth and they won the regular season. The conference is so tough. It's nice to receive this recognition but all the teams in the West are capable of winning the division."
Receiving seven of the 12 first place votes, the Huskies have never been picked to win the West Division under Gooden, let alone win the regular season (five of 12 votes) and MAC Tournament (five of 12 votes) titles. In 2007, NIU was chosen to finish second in the West after winning the division the year prior.
Behind NIU in the West, the coaches chose Ball State (one first place vote) to finish second, Western Michigan third (three first place votes), Eastern Michigan fourth, Central Michigan fifth (one first place vote), and Toledo sixth.
In the East, Ohio (11 first place votes) was selected as the favorite behind Miami (Ohio), Akron (one first place vote), Buffalo, Bowling Green, and Kent State, respectively,
The Huskies are coming a historic season in which they started 11-0 and compiled the most wins (27) since 1998. NIU also reached the MAC Championship game for the first time since 2001.
Individually, 2010 first team All-MAC selections Hoffman and Wicinski netted two of the six selections on the West Division Preseason All-MAC team. Hoffman is coming off a career season that saw her rank 17th in the nation in assists (11.51/set). Wicinski enters the 2011 campaign as the reigning MAC Freshman and Player of the Year after ranking fourth in the nation in aces (71) and sixth in kills (4.82/set).
The Huskies open the season next weekend (Aug. 26-27) with the annual NIU Invitational, featuring three top-35 teams from a year ago in Cincinnati, Iowa State and Northern Iowa. NIU's first match will be on Friday, Aug. 26, at 12 p.m. CT against IUPUI.