Volleyball splits two conference matches

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Finishing a match is something the NMU volleyball team has struggled with in past weeks. And, according to head coach Dominic Yoder, this is a problem the team, which split last weekend, would like to get rid of before it’s too late.

“We just have to finish matches – finish sets and finish games – then finish matches,” Yoder said.

On the road this past weekend, the ‘Cats lost to GLIAC South opponent Hillsdale 3-0 in close games, by scores of 24-26, 21-25 and 23-25.

“It wasn’t that we were over matched,” Yoder said. “I think our team had the opportunities to win sets, which would allow us to win the match, but we just didn’t take care of those opportunities.”

For the match, junior Katt Garvick had 10 kills and freshman Madeline Ogden had 29 assists. The Wildcats also earned 11 service aces. Seniors Caryn VanBeckum, Breanne Zaremba along with Garvick each had three service aces. Zaremba also led on the defensive side with 13 digs.

In Sunday’s competition against Findlay, NMU was able to tackle a victory in four sets (25-17, 25-18, 22-25, 25-9).

Junior Mandie Meyer and VanBeckum led the ‘Cats with 10 kills. Meyer also served up seven aces for the day. On defense, junior Cassie Osiecki had 16 digs and Zaremba had 11.

Zaremba, a middle and outside hitter, said it was a good rebound after Friday night’s hard loss.

“We really focused when it got to 20 points,” she said. “We just thought, ‘we’re going to finish this game and we got to push, and we got to focus on our digging, and on our serve receive – really every little detail.”‘

Yoder said in the match his team showed stability, which was something he was looking for the team to improve on.

“I think we played well enough to win against Findlay,” Yoder said. “It wasn’t that we over-powered them. We just did things really well. We served tough and we were able to sideout consistently.”

After the weekend was through, Yoder said he would still like to see his team be able to finish better.

In order to do that, he said he will put them into those high pressure situations at practice, where they have to finish.

“As a coaching staff, we’re going to look at our training habits and go back to the drawing board and find situations where they have to finish in practice,” Yoder said. “And then continue to do that on a day to day basis, which hopefully, will lead us into matches and allow us to win games.”

Freshman middle hitter Emma Wolfe said the past few losses have been hard, but they’re not something the team should forget.

“We realize what we’ve done wrong, and we just bring out all the energy we have for the next match,” she said. “I try to remember what mistakes I’ve made and then change them.”

Yoder said he would be looking to his returning players and especially his seniors, VanBeckum and Zaremba, to lead them through this transitional part of the season.

“We’ve got a lot of younger kids playing on the team and on the court, and they really look up to you,” Zaremba said. “You have to have a positive attitude and push them and just give a lot of enthusiasm out there.”

But, Yoder said, having just two seniors is not an excuse for his team losing matches.

“Last year’s team had the same situation,” he said. “We had two upperclassmen and everybody else was underclassmen, and we really didn’t have this problem with finishing.”

He added the only way to answer this problem is at practice.

“I think, physically, they’re prepared and they’re ready to go. But mentally, I think, we have allowed that to creep into our game that thought that we can’t finish. Then we get in that situation, and we don’t finish,” Yoder said. “And we need to change that way of thinking, and the only way to do that is at practice.”

This weekend the ‘Cats will battle the new GLIAC opponents at home starting on Friday against Ashland at 7 p.m. and Saturday against Tiffin at 2 p.m. As for now, the ‘Cats must have a strong couple of days as they head into this home stand.

“We’ve got to win out, from here on out, in order to get a good seed in the tournament and maybe host a game here,” Zaremba said. “So we’re really looking forward to playing in front of our fans and getting that support.”

Yoder said he doesn’t want to focus on the future, but winning the next match is important to him.

“I think we’re going to focus on Ashland, and then we’re going to go forward after that. So essentially we’re going to take every match, match by match,” he said. “Hopefully that success will allow us to play another day.”