Huskie volleyball opens today at NIU Invitational

NIU volleyballNIU’s volleyball team begins its 2010 campaign this weekend with the annual NIU Invitational, hosting Chicago State, College of Charleston, Oakland, and South Dakota.

Over the course of Friday and Saturday, 10 matches — five each day — will be played at Victor E. Court. 

The tournament started at 10 a.m. today with South Dakota-College of Charleston, which will be followed by the Huskies season and home opener against Chicago State (2009: 0-25, 0-12 Great West) at noon. At 2 p.m., Oakland and South Dakota will play. After a short intermission, the two evening matches will be played — Chicago State vs. College of Charleston at 5 p.m. and NIU vs. Oakland (2009: 17-10, 10-8 Summit League) at 7 p.m.

On Saturday, South Dakota and Chicago State will start the action at 10 a.m. Following Oakland vs. College of Charleston at noon, the Huskies will take on South Dakota (2009: 13-7, 6-6 Great West) at 2 p.m. In the night-cap, Chicago State and Oakland will tussle prior to the 7 p.m. tournament-ending match between NIU and College of Charleston (2009: 18-13, 12-4 Southern Conference), who made the NCAA Tournament in 2009 and will be facing NIU for the first time.

Huskie fans in attendance this weekend can take advantage of a few exciting promotions. Friday’s home opener marks “NIU Faculty/Staff Day,” where all NIU faculty and saff will be admitted to the match for free by showing a valid One Card. The Huskies’ night match theme is “Wear Red, Get Fed.” While supplies last, free pizza will be given to all NIU students wearing red; it’s sponsored by the Red Riot, the official student fan club of Northern Illinois Athletics. After the match, fans can also get to know the Huskies during an autograph session.

After the last match Saturday, there will be another chance to get familiar with the Huskies with an additional autograph session.

For Huskie fans who cannot come to the matches, the NIU contests can be watched live through Huskie All-Access via live streaming video. A new feature for the 2010 volleyball season, live streaming video will be available for all home matches.

The Huskies return eight players from a 2009 squad that went 14-16 (8-8 MAC) and earned a first round bye in the MAC Tournament for the first time since 2006. Among the top returners are a pair of All-MAC upperclassmen in 2009 MAC Defensive Player of the Year Maddie Hughes, who returns for her senior year as the libero, and junior outside hitter Allison McGlaughlin. This year’s group will also be joined by five freshmen, including the first high school All-American to play volleyball at Northern Illinois in outside hitter Lauren Wicinski

“Right now, I don’t think we are stale yet,” said ninth-year head coach Ray Gooden about his team’s effort through three weeks of preseason practice. “Usually at this time we are stale and don’t want to work. We are still trying to get better at things every day, and it’s been cool to see.

“I know we are going to be bouncing around today, just excited to play against Chicago State, and Oakland on Friday. And South Dakota and College of Charleston on Saturday,” Gooden added. “We just want a chance to play in front of a crowd and against other teams. We are excited for the weekend and to do it at home.”

For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.

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