Being off campus all season part of 2017 challenges for Northwestern

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Shane Davis begins his second season coaching the Northwestern women/NU photo

The Northwestern University volleyball team is going back to high school.

Sort of.

The Wildcats will play this season at nearby Evanston (Ill.) Township High School as their on-campus home undergoes a $110-plus million renovation.

“We’re getting a new floor, new scoreboard, video boards, really dressing it up,” second-year coach Shane Davis said.

The volleyball, wrestling and women’s basketball teams compete at Welsh-Ryan Arena, but Davis is looking at the situation as a win-win, both for this season and the future.

“I think it’s going to be awesome just in terms of community relations with the local high school  and Northwestern,” he said. “I think we can build a bigger fan base with Evanston High School and bring that into the future.”

Davis, who won two NCAA titles (2014, 2015) while coaching the men at nearby Loyola, took over at Northwestern last season. The Wildcats finished 10-22, 3-17 in the Big Ten, but have reason to be optimistic in 2017.

Sophomore outside hitter Allie Lindroth, who was part of the Big Ten team that competed in Europe this summer, is one of 11 returning players — including three starters — who are joined by a promising incoming class of seven. Click here for the 2017 Northwestern roster and quick facts about the Wildcats.

“We hope a majority of them will have an impact,” Davis said. “Obviously we have a lot of needs, so I think a majority of them will get some playing time in early in their careers.”

Practices will be a little different.

“Logistically might be challenging, finding transportation to and from the high school around classes,” Davis said. “But we’re excited about the opportunity and they’re fun challenges to have.”

For Davis, having a year of Big Ten play behind him is a good thing.

“I’m more aware,” Davis said. “I have a better understanding of a lot of stuff. I had the opportunity to spend some time with the women’s national team over the summer and got the opportunity to talk one-on-one with Karch (Kiraly) as well about the differences between men’s and women’s also about some data about making that shift.

“Some things that were important with the men might not be so important with the women’s side, and vice-versa. My head is above water.”

Northwestern opens its season August 25 in Tampa when the Wildcats play host South Florida, LSU and Arkansas Pine-Bluff.

More about the Welsh-Ryan renovations from Northwestern:

The project, part of the master athletics facilities plan recommendation, will entail a complete renovation of Welsh-Ryan Arena and McGaw Memorial Hall, including:

New seating throughout the arena, with chair-back seats replacing existing wood bleachers

Wider, more accessible concourses with improved lighting to alleviate congestion

Improved accessibility for the mobility-impaired, with five new elevators replacing the existing one

New restrooms, doubling the number of toilet fixtures as well as the addition of accessible family restrooms

New concession areas with twice as many point-of-sale stations to increase efficiency, along with new food and drink offerings

State-of-the-art lighting, audio and video capabilities in the arena

Premium seating areas and expansion of the N-Club, which provides space for pre- and post-game events, by more than 400 percent. The club, which is located on the second floor, will be extended south onto Randy Walker Terrace at Ryan Field and provide expanded hospitality opportunities on football game days.

Expansion of the building lobby by nearly 50 percent

A new ticket office

New locker rooms for men’s basketball, women’s basketball and volleyball

New offices for men’s and women’s basketball

Expansion of usable court space in both the main arena and fieldhouse.

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