Following a second straight historic campaign that saw the Huskies win the Mid-American Conference regular season championship and reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001, the Northern Illinois volleyball team began its title defense in earnest Thursday.
The team reported to preseason camp Wednesday and held its first practice of the 2012 season Thursday morning at Victor E. Court.
“Today was great being back in the gym,” said 2011 MAC Coach of the Year Ray Gooden, who has 55 wins over the last two seasons and ranks second all-time on the program’s wins list (184-136).
“Every one was excited – the players, the staff, everybody. It was really nice for us to get back into Victor E. Court and get after if. After the first day, there are some things that are good and some things we need to work on. We are probably like every other team in the country right now – we aren’t really satisfied, but we’re happy to be in here and happy to improve a little bit today and get better tomorrow.”
The Huskies ran two sessions at practice – a two-hour one in the morning and a three-plus-hour afternoon session. Both focused heavily on the fundamentals of the game and included a few fun competitions in the wide variety of drills.
The Huskies will have another two-session practice Friday, before Saturday’s single-session practice. The team will then have an “off” day Sunday to do team building activities.
Returning three starters, senior libero Amber Walker and 11 letterwinners overall from the 2011 team, the Huskies have 71 percent of their blocks, 51 percent of their digs and 43 percent of their kills back, along with their two most accurate hitters – Second Team All-MAC junior middle blocker Sarah Angelos (.359) and First Team All-MAC senior middle blocker Mary Kurisch (.321).
The defending MAC champion Huskies begin the 2012 season Friday, Aug. 24, through Sunday, Aug. 26, with the annual NIU Invitational at the NIU Convocation Center’s Victor E. Court against North Dakota State, Wichita State and New Mexico State.
For more information on NIU volleyball and Huskie athletics, visit www.niuhuskies.com.