ASK THE KIDS WHO DID THE JOB. They're pleased with what they're seeing.

The former Huskie stars were impressed.

Tammy Hinchee, the top rebounder (1,099) and third-leading scorer (1,921) in NIU history, said the Huskies are better prepared this season.

“It's very noticeable, just look at their record,” Hinchee said of NIU's improvement. “They have more confidence in themselves, [coach Carol Owens] has them prepared better and they know what they're doing out there. I think they've cut their turnovers down and they play better defense.”

Denise Robinson, who Owens called instrumental in her development as a freshman as teammates, said the team executed better and younger players improved since last year.

“I came last year when she first got the job and ooh, they stunk up the place,” Robinson said, laughing. “You can see a difference in the crispness of their game. You can see they have worked hard and the recruits they have brought in have helped. You can see the growth in last year's recruits from their freshman to sophomore year. Obviously they are doing something right, the record says it.”

Foss, the top scorer in Huskie history with 2,500 points, said it is a difficult task to take over a program and win with another coach's players, but Owens has the Huskies believing in her system.

“I think she's done a great job,” said Foss, an NIU season ticket holder. “It takes a little bit of time, but she's done it quick. The record shows she's turned the team around. Coming into a program with players who are not all your kids, then adopting those players as your kids and making them believe in you is a hard thing. I think she's done it. They trust her.”

The alumnae believe this season is just another step toward a return to prominence. Many of the returning alumnae played with Owens when the Huskies were perennial postseason visitors. In Owens' final season, she led the Huskies, along with Foss and Hinchee, to NIU's first NCAA appearances.

“Of course,” Hinchee said when asked if Owens could return NIU to past glory. “She knows how it's done because we did it and she will bring these guys back to the height of the program where it was before, maybe even better.”

Robinson said she believes Owens will need just a couple more seasons to recruit and teach to transform the Huskies into a contender.

There are still setbacks, but as is the case with poor regatta results, these are learning opportunities.

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