Created:Sunday, April 22, 2012 6:58 p.m.CDT

Men's tennis wins first MAC regular season title


DeKALB - Following its win over Chicago State Friday morning and Buffalo's loss to Ball State Saturday, the Northern Illinois men's tennis team claimed a piece of the Mid-American Conference Regular Season Championship, the first ever in program history.

"To win a championship is a great accomplishment for our kids, NIU and our tennis program,” coach Patrick Fisher said. “To do what we have done with this program in three years and to think what is happening to our program now, is only the first part of what I envisioned when I took over three years ago. To seeit take form after all the hard work is awesome.”

The Huskies finished the season with a 21-6 overall record and a MAC register of 4-1, the first 20-win season by Northern Illinois since 1989 and the fewest losses since 2004. NIU's lone loss in conference play occurred April 15 when it hosted Buffalo, dropping the contest 5-2.

Northern Illinois’ chase for the MAC crown began March 23 when it defeated Western Michigan in Kalamazoo by a 5-2 score and followed up with a 5-2 triumph over Ball State on April 7, marking the first time since 1974 that the Huskies defeated both perennial powerhouse MAC teams in the same season.

As a program, the Huskies are not strangers to success as they have claimed six conference championships in their history, three in the Mid Continent Conference and three in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference.

During that period of time, 1991-97, NIU won three player of the year awards, four coach of the year honors and had one nationally ranked player in Sunu Thomas, ranked as high as No. 77 in 1995. That same season, the Huskies were the runner-up in the Midwestern Conference, falling to Notre Dame in the championship match.

Fisher also added “Our goal now is to win another championship when we head to the MAC Tournament and this year’s tournament is going to be one of the most exciting in quite some time, because there are multiple teams that are capable of winning the title this year.”

The Huskies will begin the Mid-American Conference Tournament Friday April 27, earning a first round bye, and will face either Ball State or Chicago State in the semifinals at 1 p.m. Central. The tournament will be hosted by Toledo.

Will NIU football win the MAC this season?