Volleyball opens ‘10 spring schedule

John Becker

The NMU volleyball team split the first two matches of the spring season last weekend and is looking to use this time to improve their skills in preparation for the fall season.

The Wildcats (1-1) were defeated in five sets by the NMU Alumni team on Saturday, March 20, with scores of 23-25, 17-25, 25-22, 25-22 and 10-15. Sophomore Becca Feuerherd led with 22 digs, followed by freshman Dani Branco with 21. On the offensive front, sophomore Emma Wolfe led with 15 kills, followed by freshman Sami Vierk with 11. NMU head coach Dominic Yoder said the game was a good benchmark for the ‘Cats to start evaluating themselves both individually and on their teamwork.
The alumni team included the five senior players who have exhausted their four years of NCAA eligibility: Mandie Meyer, Katt Garvick, Cassie Osiecki, Amy Andersen-Goldsworthy, and Rachel Green. Meyer and Andersen-Goldsworthy were on the 2009 All-GLIAC First Team, and Osiecki was on the Second Team, with Garvick as an All-GLIAC Honorable Mention. Yoder said the team also had Brittany McGowan who was named to the All-GLIAC First Team in 2007, and Caryn VanBeckum who was on the First Team in 2007 and 2008.

In the 2009 season, sophomore Emma Wolfe had 252.5 points, coming off 567 attacks. She is expected to make an even bigger contribution next year.

After the Alumni Game, the ’Cats defeated the Lake Superior State University Lakers in three sets with scores of 25-21, 25-16 and 25-18. Feuerherd led with 14 digs, followed by freshman Abby Lovell with 10. Yoder said the team passed and served well but has some things to work on. The Wildcats also had eight aces.

“We didn’t make a lot of attacking errors, but we didn’t create a lot of kill opportunities for ourselves, so I think we were in one way good, but in another we could have been better,” Yoder said.

After losing five seniors and not acquiring any mid-year transfers, the Wildcat’s depth has been diminished. Yoder said the team is still inexperienced and needs some time to build up more team chemistry.

“We’re very young when it comes to (playing) as a team, and perform as individuals at the level in which we have to play,” he said.

There are currently seven freshmen, two sophomores and one junior on the team. Yoder included the sophomores as upperclassmen and said he’s looking for them to step up as leaders.

Wolfe played middle last year but said she will likely move to playing on the outside, which is a new position to her.  Wolfe also said she recognizes that the team is close in age, but that she is still looking to establish herself as a leader.

“I’m hoping to be a positive leader on the court in both picking people up and getting the kills for everyone,” Wolfe said.
Feuerherd is the team’s new resident libero, having played libero last spring when Osiecki was injured.

With Osiecki holding the Wildcat record for career digs (1,856), Feuerherd knows that expectations are high.

“I want to be able to have five digs per set which is our team goal for the libero position,” Feuerherd said.

Yoder said the defense has been working on a lot of different concepts to see which formation works best. The team has also been working on communication.

Feuerherd said she’s hoping to be a focal point of defensive communication, like her predecessor.

“(Osiecki) was a big leader on the court in terms of vocalization and she led by example so I want to fill her shoes,” Feuerherd said.

Feuerherd said she wants to help the freshmen come into their own and gain confidence on the court.

“You really have a lot on your shoulders in terms of leadership and trying to make sure everyone knows what they’re doing and when to do it,” Feuerherd said. “I want to help them become more experienced, more confident that they’re out there for a reason and they deserve to be out there.”

Wolfe said she also wants to increase her poise at the outside position.

“It’s a new position for me so I just want to improve and have everyone work together to create a good team,” Wolfe said.

Yoder likened the spring season to a study session for an exam, where the fall season is the exam; this is a learn-and-improve experience.

“It’s really a season for them to work on skill development work and on team development without any consequences,” Yoder said.

The Wildcats will head to Green Bay to take part in the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Tournament on Saturday, March 27, beginning at 12 p.m., with the last game at 4 p.m.

The ’Cats will take on the UW-GB Phoenix, two UW-GB alumni teams, and the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs.