Aug. 30, 2007
DeKalb, Ill. - The Northern Illinois volleyball team will play their first road matches of the year this weekend in Indianapolis, Ind. at the Butler Invitational. Friday, August 31 the Huskies (1-3, 0-0 Mid-American Conference) will face Utah Valley University (0-1 Independent) at 2 p.m. NIU will play two matches on Saturday, September 1 against Tennessee Tech University (2-1, 0-0 Ohio Valley Conference and Butler University (1-3, 0-0 Horizon League) at 2 p.m and 5 p.m, respectively.
In 2006, the Huskies fared well in tournaments and look to continue their success in 2007. Last year, NIU won the Buckeye Invitational, took second-place at the NIU / Comfort Inn and Suites Invitational, and grabbed second-place at the UConn Toyota Classic. Northern Illinois finished in third-place at the 2007 NIU Invitational and they will try to add another solid finish to a tournament this weekend as NIU head coach Ray Gooden continues to assemble the characteristics of the 2007 Huskies.
"Again, it's early," Gooden said. "There are a lot of things that we are trying to find out about ourselves. What we need to do is battle hard together because we will be playing on the road for the first time. That in itself will be a challenge. We are going to play against three different style teams that our all competitive. Across the board, both defensively and offensively, we have to take care of the ball a little bit better. We can't put ourselves in a spot where it's going to be difficult for us to come back."
The NIU attack continues to be led by junior Irene Johnson (Schaumburg, Ill. / Schaumburg) as she added 19 kills in a 1-3 loss to Illinois State. Johnson's team-high kills total now stands at 60. Junior Mandi Caputo (Chicago, Ill. / Immaculate Heart of Mary / DePaul) continues to lead the Huskies in assists with 144. Defensively, junior Jody Hardwick (Crystal Lake, Ill. / Crystal Lake South / St. Louis) has a team-high 49 digs, but freshman Maddie Hughes (St. Charles, Ill. / North) is only one dig behind with 48.
Northern Illinois will face Utah Valley for the first time on Friday. UVU finished 17-11 in 2006 and return two starters. Camie Manwill leads the Wolverines in kills with 19 through one match. UVU's assists leader is Kristi Lindley, who has 54 helpers. With 21 digs, Allyce Wilson leads Utah Valley defensively.
"Utah Valley is very physical," said Gooden. "We saw them on tape and they look very impressive in what they do. Their defense is incredible. We are going to have to be prepared to play a long match against them."
The Huskies have faced Tennessee Tech only one time, winning, 3-0, at home in 1996. Offensively, Leah Meffert has a team-high 56 kills and Kappy Lang has a team-high 150 assists through three matches for the Golden Eagles. On the defensive side, Katie Kenline leads TTU with 67 digs.
"Tennessee Tech is a team that is playing with a lot of confidence," Gooden said. "They have a lot of experience. We have to be prepared to battle against a different style."
NIU also has a winning record against Butler, 11-4. With three matches under Butler's belt, Jessica Wolfe has a team-high 50 kills and Brittany Awai leads the Bulldogs with 73 assists. Nina Inic has a team-leading 69 digs.
"Butler is traditionally pretty physical. We know that they are young, but they are a very athletic and aggressive team. We are going to have to be able to control their tempo and try to set our own."