The NMU volleyball team has been busy over the past week, winning two of three conference matches in a four day span.
The ‘Cats beat Lake State in three straight games on Friday, lost to Saginaw Valley 1-3 Saturday and controlled Michigan Tech on the road Tuesday, 3-1.
NMU head volleyball coach Dominic Yoder said his goal as a team is to play consistently in every conference match, whether it is at home or on the road.
“We have to steal matches at our opponent’s home place for us to stay in contention for the [Great Lake Intercollegiate Athletic Conference] title,” he added.
After the three games, the ‘Cats are 2-1 in the conference standings, and tied with Michigan Tech and SVSU, just one game behind the Grand Valley State Lakers who are 3-0 and in first place. Yoder said the North Division is the stronger of the two divisions, and it is going to be a fight for the title.
“I think we’re all in the hunt for it, and I think any given day, any team can beat each other – so we still have a chance,” Yoder said.
No place like home
The first conference victory for the ‘Cats was on their home opener, Friday against Lake State. NMU handed LSSU three straight sets with the scores 25-10, 25-16 and 25-18.
“It was fun and it was good to be in front of the Northern crowd,” Yoder said.
Another Wildcat who was excited to play in her first match at home this season was junior setter, Rachel Green. Green suffered an injury in the offseason but made her presence known by leading the team with 32 assists.
“It was good, and it was really exciting. I was nervous and everything because of my injury, but once the adrenaline started running, I couldn’t feel anything,” Green said.
Offensively, the ‘Cats were led by junior Daniela Bezerra and senior Caryn VanBeckum who each had 12 kills. NMU had a total of 42 kills for the match in 96 attempts earning a .333 average.
Junior Cassie Osieck led the Wildcats on the defensive side 17 digs. Vanbeckum and freshman Emma Wolfe each had a solo block and two blocking assists.
“The team played really well, and Lake State played better as the match progressed. But I think we maintained our consistency from start to finish,” Yoder said.
Dealt by the Cards’
In Saturday’s match, NMU faced off against another conference foe, the SVSU Cardinals. NMU lost 1-4 with games scores of 23-25, 18-25, 25-22 and 15-25.
Yoder said it was a disappointment to lose at home this early in the season, and the main reason for the loss was poor defense.
“Defensively Saginaw Valley out played us. But offensively, we were right there with them. They just dug more balls than we did,” he said.
For the ‘Cats, Green contributed 35 assists, a service ace and 12 digs, while Osiecki added 14 digs. Mandie Meyer had 10 kills and Bezerra 14.
“I think we learned that we have to play more consistent, and maybe we realized we could play better a little late,” outside hitter, Bezzera said.
Losing to the Cardinals might have come as a wakeup call but the ‘Cats felt like they were their own worst enemies on Saturday.
“I think it was difficult because we made it difficult – so we have to keep working hard and just play volleyball,” Bezzera said.
Giving Technical difficulty
NMU had little time to prepare after the loss before going head to head against rival Michigan Tech on Tuesday. Yoder said his team took time on and off the court, Sunday and Monday, to plan defensively for the match.
“We worked really hard on the floor defense and we just have that desire, and that effort, and Northern pride to play the game,” Yoder said.
In the match the ‘Cats won 4-1 with game scores 25-21, 25-17, 21-25 and 25-14. Leading the way once again on defense was Osiecki with 18 digs.
On the offensive side, NMU had 51. Meyer brought down 15 kills while Bezerra had 11 kills. Green passed the ball for 40 assists. The ‘Cats will continue the conference games this weekend on the road as they square off against Ferris State on Friday, Sept. 19, and Grand Valley State on Saturday, Sept. 20.