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NIU Media Day Notebook: Men's coaches also inspired by Jacoby award win

Matthew Apgar -
NIU women's volleyball coach Ray Gooden addresses the press during Media Day at Northern Illinois University on Friday, Aug. 4, 2017 in DeKalb.
Matthew Apgar - NIU women's volleyball coach Ray Gooden addresses the press during Media Day at Northern Illinois University on Friday, Aug. 4, 2017 in DeKalb.

DeKALB – Apparently, winning the Jacoby Award still is fresh on the mind on NIU coaches.

The trophy is given to the top women’s program in the Mid-American Conference, and the Huskies garnered the honor back in June – a fact that was mentioned not only by both coaches of female programs at Media Day on Friday, but by the coach of a male program as well.

“Obviously you hear about the women’s sports and how successful they’ve been,” first-year men’s soccer coach Ryan Swan said. “We on the men’s side are recognizing that, and as I walk past all these guys in the corridors, there’s an expectation for the men’s sports that we have to be battling up there in the top of the conference. Hopefully I’ll do my job to bring the soccer team up there.”

The volleyball team had a huge part in helping the program claim the award, going 15-1 in MAC play, winning the conference tournament and reaching the NCAA tournament.

“That’s been special for our program and the department in general,” said Ray Gooden, entering his 16th year as volleyball coach. “It also is really a testament to all of our programs, all the hard work our kids have been able to do.”

Third-year cross country coach Adrian Myers – who has seen his team rise up from the bottom of the MAC to second last year – said it’s still a matter of pride since winning the coveted cup in June.

“Winning the Jacoby Cup is huge,” Myers said. “To consider that almost every team in this department competed for a MAC title, it’s really hard to stand out. I came out of the fall really excited.”

Volleyball team’s schedule ‘a gauntlet’: Gooden said the Huskies played five teams that ended up qualifying for the NCAA tournament last year. This year, 10 such programs are on their schedule entering the season.

“It’s a challenge, but it’s also kind of what we do,” Gooden said. “It’s a gauntlet, but it’s a real positive thing for us.”

The Huskies bring back eight returners, but lose “70 percent of their offense and defense,” Gooden said.

Cross country gunning for MAC title: Myers said in the 20 years before he started coaching the team, the Huskies averaged 11th in the MAC.

After finishing seventh in his first season, they were second last year.

“We expect to be able to take another shot at Eastern Michigan, which has won the last two MAC titles,” Myers said. “So hopefully we can get that going.”

Myers said there’s a lot of talent within a two-hour radius of the school. He brought in two freshmen from Minooka, and the roster only has four runners from outside the state.

Women’s soccer starting in great shape: Coach John Ross said the team reported Monday and passed all of its fitness drills with flying colors.

He added that they are hitting really good distance-running times.

“I know Adrian (Myers) would probably like to steal some of those kids over,” Ross said.

This team is the one that gets started first, as it has an exhibition game Sunday at Cincinnati.

Men’s soccer reports next week: Although Ross is now comfortable, Swan said he’s in that nervous state wondering how his team will report.

“A week ago he was kind of anxious wondering if everyone was going to come in shape,” Swan said. “That’s where I am right now.”

Odds and ends: Athletic director Sean Frazier canceled at the last minute, citing a ‘minor family situation.’ ... DeKalb Mayor Jerry Smith was in attendance, getting a big handshake from Rod Carey as the football coach made his way to the podium.

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