Volleyball team makes third straight appearance in NCAA tournament

David Pleyel

The NMU women’s volleyball team hosted its last home game last weekend to kick off the start of the GLIAC tournament. The Wildcats focused on this important game and accepted nothing less than victory in order to enter the prestigious NCAA Division II tournament.

The Wildcats went up against the Dragons one last time this season and began scoring kills and shredding through Tiffin’s defense. The Wildcats defeated Tiffin in little over an hour’s worth of game play and swept all three matches (25-19, 25-15, and 25-22) in a much-needed victory.

Sophomore libero Becca Feuerherd said that the win against Tiffin was definitely a confidence booster for the team at this point in the season, and that, as a team, they proved their capabilities.

Sophomore defensive specialist Julie Francek digs the ball back to the opposition during a regular season game. Francek registered 43 digs on the season. // File photo/N.W.

“We played very efficient volleyball and kept steady control of the game,” Feuerherd said. “We were also able to return to aggressive serving and attacking, as well as good floor defense and serve receive, all of which are the keys to our success as a team.”

The Wildcats moved forward as they traveled to Hillsdale to take on the Grand Valley State Lakers for the third time this season. Both teams defeated one another on their home courts, and duked it out on a neutral court to determine who would walk away the victor.

The Grand Valley State Lakers slowly took control of the offense as they forced the Wildcats to play at their speed and tempo. The Lakers won the first two sets, 25-16 and 29-27. The ‘Cats came back and won the third set 25-23,but the Lakers defense proved too much for the ‘Cats as they win the last set 25-15.

Head coach Dominic Yoder said that Grand Valley team has improved greatly over the season and there were just some things the team just couldn’t stop.

“Grand Valley just came out with the mindset to win,” Yoder said. “Their defense was outstanding and they just controlled the offense. Even though we out-scored Grand Valley in kills, their defense was just frustrating us to the point we couldn’t bounce back to secure a victory.”

Lina Lopes led the Wildcats in kills this weekend with 25, followed by Sami Vierk who had 20 and Emma Wolfe who had 17. On the defensive side, Kristin Wetzel led the ‘Cats in digs with 22 for the weekend, followed by Lina Lopes and Catherine Waybright who both had 12.

Four of the Wildcats were also honored by the GLIAC with postseason awards. Outside hitter Lina Lopes was selected as the GLIAC Freshman of the Year, joining Abby Lovell on the All-GLIAC First Team. Sophomore middle hitter Sami Vierk was selected to the second team, followed by junior middle hitter Emma Wolfe to receive an honorable mention.

Lopes played in all 27 matches for the ‘Cats and appeared in all but one set. Lopes leads the Wildcats in kills (298), digs (297) and service aces (49). She also has 32 assists and 32 total blocks. Lovell played in 25 matches as the team setter. She leads the team with 936 assists. Lovell also has 97 kills, 21 service aces, 133 digs and 28 blocks. Vierk played in all 27 matches. She leads the team in kills (298) along with Lopes. Vierk is second in total blocks (55) with six blocks and 49 block assists. Emma Wolfe appeared in all 27 matches and is third on the team in kills (260).Wolfe has 13 service aces, 36 digs, 14 blocks and 31 block assists for 45 total blocks.

The Wildcats are now focusing on NCAA Division II tournament where they will take on the Indianapolis Greyhounds for the second time this year. The Greyhounds gave the ‘Cats their first upset of the season at the GLVC-GLIAC Crossover Tournament and look to knock the ‘Cats out of the tournament early.  Head coach Dominic Yoder said that he is proud of his team this year and he hopes to advance deep into the tournament.

“I’m very proud of this team’s success, and I am very happy that we met our goals for the team this season,” Yoder said. “We are far from being done, though. We need to focus on our match-up against Indy and slow down their offense as well as working on our defensive schemes. We take this tournament a day at a time and prove that we belong here.”