Spikers prepare for season

Jon Young

The NMU women’s volleyball team will be back in action this weekend for the first time since their third straight NCAA appearance in the fall. The spring season doesn’t count towards the team’s fall season but it’s a good opportunity for the team to see where they stand and compete against bigger schools head coach Dominic Yoder said.

“Really it’s called our non-championship season,” Yoder said. “There’s no championship. There’s no conference winner, the games don’t count against us at all. It’s really just an opportunity for us to train as a team and prepare for the fall. It gives us an opportunity to play against outside competition.”

Setter Abby Lovell makes one of her 1,026 assists last season. Lovell will look to help the Wildcats back to the NCAA tournament for the fourth straight year. // Justin Key/NW

The ’Cats are returning most of their lineup, with captain Katie Twardzik being the lone senior on last years squad. Yoder said the team will miss her senior leadership but thinks it will give other players a chance to build their skills.

“It gives them an opportunity to really pick up their level of confidence, as well as their leadership qualities and help them shine through,” Yoder said.

The Wildcats have had limited practice as a team but have used the offseason to do individual workouts in preparation for the spring season. Sophomore captain Sami Vierk said she can’t wait to get back to team practices and competition.

“It feels really good, it was a little rough at first,” Vierk said. “We’ve gotten back into the swing of things, and individual practices helped a lot in getting the team practices better.”

Yoder and his staff have also been busy in the offseason, signing two high school players to National Letters of Intent. Kaitlyn Hoffman, a setter from Marysville, Mich., and Kaprice Seever, a middle hitter from Olathe, Kan., will look to help the ’Cats this upcoming fall.

“Every year, we’ve had at least one freshman start, so we’re looking for them to come in and have a huge impact this season,” Yoder said.

The busy offseason is matched by an even busier spring schedule. The Wildcats will have four competitions and 20 practices in a 45-day stretch. This comes after only having five team practices prior to their first match.

The Wildcats kick off their spring season on Saturday, March 19 at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich. The ’Cats will get the chance to play against some GLIAC rivals along with division one schools. The players are excited about the opportunity, Vierk said.

“It’s a really good tournament,” Vierk said. There’s a lot of Division-I one teams and lot of real good Division-II from our conference. Grand Valley’s going to be there, Ferris (State) is going to be there, those are huge rivals and we’re really excited to play some higher level schools.”

The ’Cats will be on the road the next three weekends before returning to NMU to host their final tournament of the spring season. Freshman captain Ana Lopes said she’s excited to see where the team stands and to prepare for next fall.

“We’re curious to see how it’s going to be; it’s our first game in a long time,” Lopes said. “We just want to play well and prepare our team for the fall.”