The NMU volleyball team squared off against four teams during the Triton Invitational at UC-San Diego last weekend and came away with one victory and three close defeats.
Of their four opponents, three were ranked in the top 25 in the nation by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA). The Wildcats are now 4-4 on the season.
“All the sets were close. We had a lot of opportunities to win but we were inconsistent down the stretch and that affected the outcome,” NMU head coach Dominic Yoder said.
The ‘Cats were able to take one set from No. 2 California State San Bernardino but lost the subsequent sets resulting in CSU San Bernardino defeating Northern Michigan by set scores of 25-23, 25-18, 20-25, 25-21. Yoder said the ‘Cats were eager to play such a highly ranked team and were elated to have proven their worth.
“We were able to slow their best attacker down and then establish an offensive identity ourselves with our middle attackers. The team came away with the ability to play at the top level of Division-II,” he said.
Yoder said the ‘Cats had multiple opportunities to take advantage of No. 21 California State Los Angeles but did not execute, resulting in an NMU loss with set scores of 21-25, 25-23, 25-23, 25-22.
“We really should have won that [game], we kind of let it slip away early in the match. It was an important loss that we need to evaluate because it’s a team we should have beaten,” Yoder said. “We were equally matched but we just didn’t take advantage of the opportunities and in that aspect we gave up.”
Yoder believes his athletes have the skill to play at the top level of the division, but it takes more than one or even a few athletes to make the team great: it takes the team working as a fluid unit.
“One match we’d play good on the left or on the right, one match our defense was stellar, but all of those units weren’t clicking at the same time,” Yoder said.
The ‘Cats were victorious against unranked Cal. State Dominguez Hills in three straight sets with scores of 25-19, 25-16, 25-13.
Yoder said the tournament will help prepare the ‘Cats for their GLIAC conference opener against Saginaw Valley.
“Saginaw Valley is a pretty good team; they were able to beat Cal. State L.A., so I think we’re equally matched and we look forward to playing them on the road,” Yoder said.
Senior player Amy Andersen-Goldsworthy said she thinks Saginaw Valley sees their school ahead of NMU because they were able to defeat Cal. State L.A. With this in mind, Andersen-Goldsworthy said the team is ready to play a tough game against Saginaw Valley on the road on Sep. 11.
“We could have gone against an easier group of teams and be 7-1 but we didn’t. Instead, we showed that we can compete with a higher caliber of teams,” she said.
Andersen-Goldsworthy had 14 points, 10 kills, two serve-aces and a hitting percentage of .474 against CSU San Bernardino. She believes the GLIAC conference games are important, but that the team is also looking to improve its overall record.
“Our cross-conference games are important because [the AVCA] team rankings are gauged by overall record,” she said.
This being her last year as a Wildcat, Andersen-Goldsworthy said this season is particularly special to her, being that the opportunities for sports beyond the college level are few and far between.
“This is my last chance at competitive sports so it means a lot to me. There’s four of us specifically who have been together since we were freshman, and being out on the court with them now is very meaningful,” she said.
After another road trip, the Wildcats will return home on Sept. 15 to host divisional rival Michigan Tech.
Tech (2-6) is currently sitting fifth in the GLIAC North, and is coming off a 2-2 tournament performance in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.