Sooner or later, someone had to notice.
Since Pawel Gajdzik arrived in DeKalb last summer, the Northern Illinois men's tennis coach has been a tireless recruiter.
But at every stop in the U.S., he has encountered plenty of obstacles.
He came to NIU after most of the top high school seniors in the U.S. already had committed, he took over a program without an indoor facility and therefore the lack of an ability to play many home matches and he kept hearing the same thing.
"Northern Illinois, is that Division I?" recruit after recruit asked him.
So Gajdzik went to what he knew, contacted some connections back in Europe and his home country of Poland, and brought in a group of players who Gajdzik felt could rival any team in the country.
Only no one noticed then either.
His freshmen helped lead the Huskies to a tie for second place in the Mid-American Conference, the team's best finish since rejoining the MAC in 1997. Jurica Grubisic was named to the MAC's first team while Pawel Poziomski made the second team and was named MAC Newcomer of the Year.
Tennisrecruiting.net, the experts in Division I tennis recruiting, labeled the Huskies international recruiting class No. 1 in the nation amongst the non-BCS Conference Mid-Majors.
"It's actually the first time that NIU has been recognized in the recruiting rankings," Gajdzik said. "We knew we were going to have a good incoming class, but that was my opinion. Now, it's not only our opinion."
Having players such as Grubisic, who not too long ago scored a win in junior tennis over recent NCAA singles champion Devin Britton of Mississippi State, meant the Huskies couldn't be a secret anymore.
Two weeks ago, tennisrecruiting.net put together a panel of tennis experts to vote on the top 25 recruiting classes in the nation. NIU didn't even get a vote while Santa Clara was No. 15.
On Friday, NIU ranked right ahead of Santa Clara as "one program [that] stood out above the rest."
"Northern was not on their radar," Gajdzik said.
As Gajdzik heads to junior tournaments throughout the Midwest this summer followed by national championships in Kalamazoo, Mich., later this summer, he hopes that attitude will begin to change.
"I think [this ranking] is going to be to our advantage," Gajdzik said. "The guys on the team have enjoyed it here and know other guys that want to come.
"That word of mouth, you can't put a price on it. Now hopefully we can get some U.S. players to look at our program and say, 'I want to be a part of it, I want to start looking at the school.' "
• Daily Chronicle sports editor Jon Styf can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.