Last season, the NMU volleyball team snapped GVSU’s 19-game win streak in five sets. This season, the Lakers come in with a 14-game win streak and a No. 4 ranking in the nation.
NMU head coach Dominic Yoder said the Lakers (25-2, 14-0 GLIAC) are a good team, but they aren’t unbeatable.
“We know we can beat them,” Yoder said. “So I don’t think that No. 4 ranking is that big of a deal.”
NMU goes into this weekend at 10-4 overall and 8-2 in the GLIAC North, and while this is a good ranking to be at during the latter part of the season, Yoder still wants to improve.
“We should be in the top 10 (of the nation),” he said. “This team knows, in their hearts, that we’re a better team than what our record is demonstrating right now.”
The next opportunity the ‘Cats have to improve their ranking is in two pivotal games this weekend, Friday against Ferris State and Saturday against Grand Valley. Two wins in these matches could secure a home court advantage for the opening round of conference play next week.
In the case of a split, NMU would have to rely on a Ferris State loss to Michigan Tech on Saturday to get a first round game at Vandament.
“The first match against Ferris is important because it is our first step,” Yoder said. “We’re in control of our destiny. We win both and we host (a GLIAC tournament match). We don’t want to count on anyone else beating anybody else.”
The Wildcats are coming off two victories last weekend against Michigan Tech (3-1) and Urbana (3-0).
Against the Huskies, NMU had two players with career high stats. Junior Rachel Green earned 53 assists and sophomore outside hitter Daniela Bezerra had 21 kills.
Bezerra dropped all of her kills against the No.1 blocking team in the nation, Michigan Tech.
Green played in her fourth game this season after having a knee injury and a concussion. While Green was sidelined, freshman Madeline Ogden stepped in her place and became the No. 1 setter in the GLIAC, averaging 10.53 a game.
Even though both Green and Ogden are battling for a starting position, the two are working together rather than competing against one another, to better the team.
“I believe they both understand that the obvious goal is for our team to be successful,” Yoder said. “And I think Rachel offers us a little different dynamic when it comes to experience in setting.”
The relationship between the two may have been a little rocky when they were trying to earn the starting spot, but now they realize they’re each an asset to the team.
“We were a little rough in the beginning of the season, when we were fighting for spots,” Green said. “But now I think we’re learning from each other pretty well.”
Yoder said the decision to go with Green on Friday was based not only on her being back at 100 percent, but her performance in practice.
He added the team is playing and practicing at its best, and it couldn’t come at a better time.
“We need to prove we are better, and we prove it by beating the No. 4 team in the nation,” he said.
To be successful against the Lakers, the Wildcats are going to have to play better than they did against GVSU earlier this game.
NMU took two sets 3-2 against GVSU earlier this fall. According to Yoder, those past sets are what the ‘Cats can build off.
“[GVSU] is confident and they’re going to expect to terminate every single ball that we send them,” he said. “And we need to be understanding of that and we need to continue to play hard.”
The facts that NMU almost beat the Lakers this season and did defeat them last season, will mean hardly anything on Saturday, Yoder added.
“If anything, it gives Grand Valley a little more fire for this year,” he said.
Yoder compared beating the GLIAC’s lone undefeated team, GVSU, to chopping down a tree.
He added the Lakers are a tall tree and you’re not going to chop them down in just one swing.
“We’re looking to knock that zero and turn it into a one,” Yoder said. “And they’re looking to try and prevent that.”
Outside hitter Bezerra said the ‘Cats have all the necessary tools to make the GVSU tree fall.
“I think, now, we have it in our mind that we can beat them at home. So I’m not intimidated by Grand Valley at all,” she said. “I don’t think they have anything special. I think we’re better. We can dig out of balls. We can block and we can hit.”
The first match this weekend will take place Friday at 7 p.m. in Vandament against Ferris State, followed by Saturday’s 2 p.m. match versus Grand Valley, again in Vandament.
The first round of the conference playoffs is Nov. 12. Possible opponents for the Wildcats are Ferris State, Saginaw Valley, and Michigan Tech.