NIU played a three game series at Bowling Green over the weekend, winning one of the games. The win was a 9-0 final on Friday
. On Saturday, the team played a doubleheader, losing both games, 4-1 and 7-3
. The Huskies currently hold a 4-19-1 record in 2014.
Track & Field:
The Huskies competed at the Raleigh Relays
, Bobcat Invitational
, and Texas Relays
over the week, finding some level of success at each. They'll next compete at the EIU Big Blue Invitational on Saturday, April 5.
The Huskies split two MAC matches over the weekend. On Friday, they beat Akron 4-3
. On Saturday, NIU fell to Buffalo, 6-1
. NIU is now 1-3 in conference play this season.
NIU sent two players to the NCAA Championships
recently, Rob Jillard and Nick Smith. Both lost in the second round of their weight classes. The two combined to give NIU 53rd place at the event.
The Huskies split two games at Iowa State
, seeing their record move to 10-12. Both games were played on Sunday. NIU took the first, 15-6. The team lost the second, 6-5. Neither game went the standard seven innings, as the first ended after five and the second was forced to an eighth inning.
The 2013 season marks the 25th anniversary of Northern Illinois softball's run to the Women's College World Series in 1988. We caught up with the head coach of that team, Dee Abrahamson, to get her best memories from that season.
Q: Heading into the 1988 season, did you think that this team could make a run at the Women's College World Series?
Dee Abrahamson: "Well, it was kind of a different time when I came to NIU. We were still playing under the AIAW system, since the NCAA didn't sponsor softball and wasn't doing women's sports, in general. We had been pretty successful going to regionals through the AIAW system. When the NCAA started championships in 1982, that changed the whole format of everything. It was different and it changed the whole power structure. Under the AIAW, the middle of the country was really the heart of softball. Illinois was really good. Northwestern was very successful. Western Illinois, Texas, Missouri, Iowa. The middle of the country was really the heart of softball. When the NCAA took over championships, it spread out a lot more, mainly on the west coast. The Pac-12 started putting more money into their programs to be competitive. More recently, the SEC has put more money into their programs to be competitive. It was just a different time. We were successful in the AIAW regionals, so when the NCAA took over, it was a different format, different time. We thought we were playing very well. We thought we had a good opportunity at regionals again, but when you get to that level, you have to be good and you have to be lucky. You have to get a hit at the right time. You have to get an out at the right time when the other team has the bases loaded. In regionals, we turned a triple play, which is not something you expect to happen, but it got us out of a huge jam. We were in a position where the people who were involved in that play could make it happen and we got ourselves out and hold onto our lead. So, if you did ask me at the beginning of the year if we would make it to the Women's College World Series...everybody's always hopeful, but realistically, no, we didn't think we were going to make it there. We did think that we were good enough to be in regionals. When you get to a four-team region - there were only 32 teams in the tournament, so you had to be in the top 32 - all four teams are going in thinking the same thing that 'Wow, we got a chance, now who is going to make it work.'"
Q: After notching a few big wins early in the year against Florida State, Northwestern and Western Illinois, when did the team believe that 1988 could be a special year?
DA: "I think it was the way they felt about each other. This particular group of people bonded really well and I think you need that. The people who were not playing as much, certainly not as much as they wanted to, were very supportive of the people who were playing. That's a special thing because it is hard to be selfless sometimes and realize that 'I would love to be out there, but this person is on a hitting streak or this person can run faster than I can, so they deserve to be in the lineup.' It was really that we felt that we were a really good, tight unit. When you feel like that, you feel a little more invincible where they can count on each other to find a way to get ourselves out of jams and be successful. After our Florida trip that year, we felt very good about that. Beating Northwestern, certainly at that time since they were a powerhouse in the country, just kind of added fuel to the fire that we could go a long way here if we stay healthy."
"We had two really key players in the mix. Beth Schrader was a very special pitcher at the time. She was going to be able to fight for us in the circle and make a huge difference for us on defense. On offense, we had Jill Justin who was an incredible hitter. She was one of the best hitters in the game. It was kind of unfortunate that there weren't Olympics around at the time. When she played in the summer, she played for arguably the best women's team in the country and most of those players, the younger ones, went on to be Olympians and were very fortunate. That's a great one-two punch. If you got a pitcher who can keep the other team from scoring and you got a hitter who can provide the offense on your side, you can win a lot of games."
Q: After coming from the brink of elimination and knocking off Illinois State with two wins in the regional final, what was the first thing that went through your mind when you realized "We're going to the WCWS"?
DA: "My thought was 'Wow, how are we going to do this?' We believed all along we had a chance. We got up that day; we were coming out of the loser's bracket, so we had to win two to knock them off. We talked on the bus about doing what it took for as long as it took and giving ourselves a chance to be there. When we actually got that final out, it's all the things going through your head like 'What next?' You want to be happy and you want to celebrate, but in my brain, it's thinking about 'Okay, now what are the next steps?' because we had never been there. So when am I going to get information about hotel and flights and I have to get a bus and a van and my mind was racing. I wanted to figure out the next step to make this an even better experience than we had at regionals. For the first hour or two, it was my mind racing about the things that needed to be done and the people I needed to talk to - the media folks, the people at home, our athletic director. All of those things, it wasn't until we were on the bus on the way back that I got to sit back and say 'Wow, that was amazing and hopefully we can make this next step amazing, too.' I should really ask some other people about what that's like, if they have the same thing that they can't get their mind to stop racing about all the next steps until they sit back."
Q: Your first opponent in the WCWS was UCLA, a team that had won three of the first six NCAA Division I softball national titles. Were there any nerves heading into that first game?
DA: "We knew that we were definitely the underdogs going in. We were not a big name school going in with a long tradition like other people did. That's kind of an NIU Athletics feeling anyway that, in most respects, we were an underdog. We kind of embraced that role of 'We know more about them than they know about us.' We just needed to take advantage of that. We had obviously seen them play, especially for me because I had worked the WCWS for so many years. I've seen UCLA play. I've seen how they coach. I've seen their players. They haven't seen us, that's for sure, so we might have a little advantage going in. They may be looking forward to the next team in their bracket and the tough team to beat and figure that they'll beat Northern Illinois. We were hoping to assume that role that NIU often assumes, which is fly under the radar and play hard and give yourself a chance to win. We did, but we didn't quite finish. We were in the game right to the end and had a chance. We just didn't get a hit where we needed it."
Q: Overall, what was your best memory from that year?
DA: "That's a really hard question because there were so many good ones. A lot of them happened on the field. Probably, the best one was seeing the joy on those kids' faces when they actually were able to do what they set out to do, which was play great softball. Just how happy everybody was. You work your tail off to do lots of things. Sometimes, when it works out for you, it's just incredibly happy. Just how happy they all were as a group and happy for each other."
"We had an amazingly tight team. We had a lot of good junior and senior leadership. I had a great assistant coach (Donna Martin) who had been with me for a long time. Everybody knew what their role was and did it. That's definitely a thing to celebrate when everybody knows what's needed and they get it done and it works in your favor."
Northern Illinois senior student-athletes Lauren
Eberts (women's soccer), Samantha Grams (volleyball), Shaakira Haywood (women's
basketball), Jenelle McCalla (track & field) and Amanda Sheppard (softball)
have been honored as 2013 Outstanding Women Student Awards for their
contributions to Northern Illinois University. Awarded annually since 1980, the
honor is given by the NIU Presidential Commission on the Status of Women to 48
women across all disciplines.
Eberts, who has a 3.762 GPA in public health, played
in every minute of the team's 2012 season. The senior defender helped NIU allow
the fewest goals in the Mid-American Conference and the second-fewest shots on
goal in NIU's program history.
Grams maintains a 3.805 GPA as a health sciences
major. The Forest Park, Ill., native earned Academic
All-MAC honorable mention laurels during her senior campaign with the Huskies
after playing in 24 matches and 62 sets in 2012. Grams totaled 28 kills, 39
blocks and 14 digs during the year, scoring 48 total points during the season.
Haywood has a 3.687 GPA in psychology.
in all 30 games, starting 12 at center in 2012-13 and has played in 37 straight
games dating back to February of 2012. Haywood scored a career-high 73 points,
averaging 2.4 points a game, shooting 43.3 percent (26-60) on the season.
McCalla, who has a perfect 4.0 GPA in psychology, holds the NIU school
record in the 400 hurdles with a time of 1:01.76. This year, the Whitby,
Ontario, Canada, native qualified for the MAC Indoor Championships in the 60
hurdles, while also contributing on NIU's 4x400 relay teams.
Sheppard has a 3.495 GPA in kinesiology and helped the Huskies reach
the 2013 MAC Championship game. The Oak Forest, Ill., native batted .298 and
ranked second on the team with a .470 slugging percentage, while playing in all
57 games. Sheppard also was second on the team with 18 extra-base hits,
including a team-best 12 doubles and five home runs.
Track & Field: NIU took 11th place at the MAC Outdoor Championships over the weekend. Janay Mitchell accounted for eight team points by finishing third in the 100 meters and seventh in the 200 meters. Meanwhile, Sidra Sherrill (shot put), Natalie Tarter (heptathlon) and Jamie Burr (800 meters) also scored points for the Huskies.
Track & Field: Northern Illinois closed out their regular season over the weekend with a busy three meet schedule. At the Penn Relays, the Huskies got a MAC auto bid from Sidra Sherrill in the shot put, while Janay Mitchell solidified her spot in the 100 meters. Meanwhile, NIU got strong showings at West Chester and UW-Whitewater. Men's Tennis: Northern Illinois saw their season come to an end as they hosted the 2013 MAC tournament. The Huskies advanced to their first title match since 2004 when they upset No. 1 Ball State, 4-2, Friday. Their run ended Saturday, though, when they fell to Western Michigan, 4-3.
Track & Field: Northern Illinois dominated the competition at the Huskie Open with nine event titles. Megan Gregory (100 hurdles, 200 meters), Janay Mitchell (100 meters), Ida Burbulla (high jump), Sidra Sherrill (shot put), Alex Schad (long jump) all earned wins, along with the 4x100 and 4x400 relay teams. Out west at the Beach Invitational, Meghan Heuer earned an automatic bid to MACs in the 800 meters. Men's Tennis: Northern Illinois closed out their regular season Sunday with a big 4-3 win over Buffalo. The win helped secure NIU a spot in next weekend's MAC Championships, which the Huskies host.
Track & Field: Northern Illinois took third place at the Chicagoland Championships in Romeoville, Ill. Natalie Tarter, Sidra Sherrill and Megan Gregory each claimed event titles for the Huskies, while Tarter's 4,206 points in the heptathlon set a new school record.
Baseball: The Huskies moved to 4-2 in MAC play this weekend with a three-game sweep of Akron in Avon, Ohio. The series began Friday with a tight 4-3 win courtesy of two runs in the top of the ninth. NIU got another one-run win Saturday with a 2-1 win behind Eli Anderson's complete game performance. Northern got the sweep on Sunday by crushing the Zips, 14-4. Track & Field: Northern Illinois had several strong performances over the weekend at the Texas Relays and Raleigh Relays. Megan Gregory and Meghan Heuer each clinched MAC automatic qualifying marks to highlight the split-squad weekend.
Northern Illinois' 2012-13 season came to a close Monday night with a tight 45-44 loss at Eastern Michigan
. Aksel Bolin and J.J. Cravatta each scored nine points to pace the Huskies.
Track & Field: The Huskies kicked off their outdoor season Friday in Tampa, Fla., with several quality performances. Meghan Heuer won the 1500 meters, while 10 different individuals combined for 14 top 10 finishes.
Northern Illinois dominated their Senior Night showdown with Eastern Michigan, winning 194.775-192.550
. Megan Melendez, Jaelyn Olson, Kim Gotlund and Natalie Sutter all won individual honors on the night.
Baseball: Northern Illinois went 1-2 at Minnesota's Dairy Queen Classic with all three contests coming down to the last inning. In Friday's tournament lid-lifter, the Huskies fell to Utah, 6-1. On Saturday afternoon, NIU and Dartmouth were locked in a pitchers' duel, but it was the Big Green who came away with a 1-0 win. In the tournament finale, Alex Klonowski's complete game two-hitter lifted the Huskies to a 2-1 win over the host Golden Gophers. Softball: NIU split their Sunday doubleheader in Carbondale, Ill., as part of Southern Illinois' Coach B Classic. In the first game, the Huskies squeaked out a 3-2 win against Butler, but lost in extras to Saint Louis in the second game.
NIU split a pair of Saturday contests
at home. In the first match, the Huskies swept Western Illinois, 7-0, before falling to the Green Bay Phoenix, 4-1.
The Huskies took second place Saturday
at the 36-hole Forest Hills Collegiate. Bryce Emory paced NIU with a fifth place showing.
The Huskies got their first two MAC wins of the year, both coming on the road. NIU shot 59.2 percent from the field and 66.7 percent from three-point range Wednesday to down Ohio, 73-52
. Sunday at Kent State, the Huskies topped the Golden Flashes, 52-47
This weekend in NIU Athletics is an interesting scheduling anomaly. Saturday, the men's and women's basketball teams will be facing Toledo in a doubleheader action. The women play host to the Rockets
in a key Mid-American Conference West battle. Tip off for Saturday's contest, which is also Senior Day and NIU PinkZone game, is set for 3 p.m. As fans are leaving the Convocation Center, they can turn to 1360 AM WLBK and probably catch Bill Baker's pregame show prior to the start of the men's basketball contest at Toledo
. The men's game begins at 6 p.m.
While it isn't that unusual for two teams in the same conference to be playing each other in two different sports on the same day, it is unique when the same schools from two different conferences square off in doubleheader action. That will be the case Saturday in Lubbock, Texas as the baseball team faces Texas Tech
at 12 p.m., while the softball team, which is in Lubbock for the Jeannie McHaney Memorial Classic hosted by Texas Tech, will face the No. 21 Red Raiders
at 4 p.m.
Fans can watch Saturday' women's basketball game through Huskie All-Access and both of softball's games with Texas Tech through RaiderVision All-Access.