Volleyball inks three front row players for 2013

Huskies add two outside hitters, middle blocker

Ray Gooden

Ray Gooden

The Northern Illinois volleyball team signed three student-athletes to National Letters of Intent for the 2013 season on Wednesday.

The Huskies’ latest recruiting class is comprised of outside hitters T’ara Austin (Joeliet, Ill./Joliet Central) and Mary Grace Kelly (Strongsville, Ohio/Walsh Jesuit) and middle blocker Jenna Radtke (Buffalo Grove, Ill./Adlai E. Stevenson).

A 5’8″ middle blocker with plenty of bounce, Austin will move to the pin with NIU. She tallied 358 kills, 238 digs and 42 blocks as a senior for Joliet Central. She was named an all-area and all-conference performer in her final season.

“T’ara, like all of our class, is very athletic,” said 2012 Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year Ray Gooden. “She brings a level of physical play and just needs to gain experience. She has a chance to be a very dominant attacker.”

Kelly, a 6’0″ pin, led Walsh Jesuit to a 20-6 record as a senior and team captain to win district championship and finish runner-up at regionals. She was named District Player of the Year, second team all-state and first team all-area and all-conference in her final season. She helped WJHS to a 20-7 mark as a junior, winning conference, district and regional championships while finishing fourth at state. She earned first team all-conference and second team all-area selections as she totaled 255 kills, 24 blocks, 15 aces and hit .351. As a freshman, she helped WJHS district championship and regional runner-up as a freshman.

“Mary Grace is a very skilled attacker,” Gooden said. “She has a lot of experience, not only in front row, but in back row as well. We expect her to be another solid, complete, six-rotation player for us.”

Radtke didn’t start playing volleyball until her sophomore year at Stevenson but quickly adjusted to and excelled at the game as a 6’2″ middle, earning the team’s MVP honor in her first season. As a junior, she helped Stevenson to a 31-9 record and regional and sectional championships. She garnered an all-area honorable mention nod as she tallied 129 kills, 119 blocks, 12 aces and hit .294. In her final season, she led Stevenson to a 34-4 record and regional championship as team captain. She earned all-conference and all-area selections after totaling 192 kills, 146 blocks, 39 aces and hitting .449.

“Jenna is another tremendous athlete who will have a very strong presence at the net with her attacking and blocking,” Gooden said. “We hope she continues to keep the strong tradition of middle hitters at NIU.”

The 2012 Huskies finish the season at 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 24, at Marquette. For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.

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