Playing at home last weekend, Northern Michigan’s volleyball team held on for a 3-1 win over the Mercyhurst Lakers Friday night and picked up a quick three-game sweep over the Gannon Golden Knights on Saturday.
Senior Wildcat Brittany McGowan and sophomore Mandie Meyer led the ‘Cats in Friday’s win against Mercyhurst. McGowan recorded 47 assists and Meyer contributed 19 kills, 10 digs and one solo block. Middle hitter Caryn VanBeckum’s 15 kills and defensive setter Cassie Osiecki’s three service aces also pushed the Wildcats to the 3-1 victory (30-23, 30-25, 27-30, 35-33).
“[The Lakers] definitely weren’t giving up on anything,” McGowan said. “In the past, we’ve beat them a little bit better. We let up on some loose areas that we haven’t [before].”
Northern Michigan (11-7 overall, 5-1 GLIAC) and Mercyhurst (13-5, 1-4) each finished the match with seven blocks. The ‘Cats also scored seven service aces. Freshman Maggie Iverson nailed a service ace in her first play of the game.
“It was really good, I’m glad a lot of the fans came,” Iverson said. “It was good to see a bunch of people coming out to support us.”
Katie Twardzik, another freshman addition to the squad, was pleased with the roaring fans of the Vandament Arena as well.
“It’s really exciting. It’s a little intimidating at first, but it’s great to play in front of so many people,” she said.
Friday’s match was the start of a three-game road swing that was also Mercyhurst’s final trip to the Upper Peninsula as a member of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC). The Lakers will join the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) at the end of the year.
“The athletic department will save a quarter of a million dollars in travel costs,” Lakers head coach Ryan Patton said. “But I’m really going to miss the challenge of the GLIAC.”
Wildcat head coach Dominic Yoder said he agreed the financial situation the Pennsylvanian teams face is unpleasant.
“When it comes to travel, it’s about a 13-hour trip, so I’m glad that they came to us [this year],” Yoder said. “They’re a solid team when they’re on the system and they really forced us to the limit. It’s going to be a different conference without them.”
Saturday afternoon’s match marked the last time the ‘Cats would face another team leaving the GLIAC when they faced the Gannon Golden Knights.
Like Mercyhurst, financial reasons will force Gannon to join the PSAC next season, head coach Matt Darling said.
NMU defeated the Golden Knights in a 3-0 victory (30-10, 30-15, 30-12) with Wildcats Meyer and McGowan once again leading the pack. Meyer had 13 kills and four digs; McGowan added 30 assists.
Sophomore Aimee Mohr, a defense specialist for the ‘Cats, saw her first home-court playing time of the season. Mohr, like fellow freshmen Twardzik and Iverson, was thrilled about how well the fans contributed to the team’s performance.
“I was actually excited again. We played really well and I’m happy with all the support we got tonight,” Mohr said.
Many of the 847 fans who attended the pair of weekend games were thrilled with the performance of the team.
“It’s really exciting because you’re right on the floor and everybody can really get into it, especially since our team’s really good,” senior theatre major Mike Gerdwagen said. “It’s fun to be up close and in the action.”
Though the ‘Cats enjoyed the comfort of playing at home the past three games, they hit the road later in the week for a Tuesday game against Lake Superior State University.
“It’s always tough to play at Lake State so we’re not going to take this lightly,” Yoder said. “We’re going to go in there and we’re going to take care of business and do what we do best.”