Volleyball springs back into competition

Jon Young

It was a solid start to the spring season last weekend as the NMU women’s volleyball team held their own against two Division I opponents and swept a pair of matches over a Division II and NAIA school.

Head coach Dominic Yoder said he was impressed with the team’s play against the Division I schools, especially since the team had only five days of practice since spring break.

“I thought it was good,” Yoder said. “We’re presently surprised that with our young players, our freshmen and sophomores; they competed very well against Toledo and Central Michigan.”

NMU snagged the first game from Toledo, 25-20, and lost the second match, 25-13.

Sophomore left side/middle hitter Kalli Herron led the team with seven kills.

Junior defensive specialist/left side hitter Kalin Zimmerman paced the ’Cats with 12 digs.

Sophomore middle hitter Sarah Hamilton, who led the team with 5.5 points against Toledo, said it’s exciting to compete against Division I talent.

“That was awesome for us,” Hamilton said. After we beat them we were like ‘Oh my god we just beat a D-I team,’ it was really encouraging that we got to play against a D-I team and take it to that level.”

The ’Cats lost 25-17 and 25-20 to Central Michigan University. Zimmerman said she was impressed with NMU’s performance considering the talent level they faced.

“Anytime you go up against a big school and you’re the underdog, you want to put on your best show and it definitely motivates us,” Zimmerman said. “We wanted to show them we weren’t just some small D-2 school.”

Herron led the ’Cats with four kills and 6.5 points, while Zimmerman chipped in eight digs. Freshman setter Kaitlyn Hoffman paced NMU with 11 assists.

The ’Cats got their first look at a GLIAC opponent this season as they took on Lake Superior State University for the last set of the day.

NMU beat the Lakers 25-21 and 25-12. Hamilton said the slow start in the first game sparked the team’s convincing win in the second match.

“We usually beat them and we came in there kind of thinking that and the first game we started out slow,” Hamilton said. “I think after we realized we were starting out slow, we really pulled it together in the second game and played good volleyball.”

Pacing the ’Cats against Lake State were Zimmerman’s 13 digs and Herron’s eight kills and 10 points. Hoffman recorded 18 assists in the winning effort.

The ’Cats also swept NAIA opponent Rochester College Warriors. NMU had a strong defensive showing against the Warriors winning 25-13 and 25-10.

Leading the ’Cats was Zimmerman with 11 digs. Hoffman contributed 13 assists and Herron led the team with eight kills.

“Kali’s offensive performance stuck out, as well as Zimmerman’s defense performance,” Yoder said. “Overall I thought our general play by our middles was good. They set a lot of good blocks and really helped our defense work a little bit easier.”

Yoder said he saw things he liked on the offensive and defensive end but still noted the need for improvement.

“Our blocking improved tremendously,” Yoder said. Our floor defense still needs to come up to par right now.” We have a new setter who is setting the team right now, so we have a few growing pains to deal with. We’re looking for improved middle play as well as improved right to left side attack.”

The Wildcat starting lineup will feature some different faces this spring season. The departure of three seniors and transfers by two previous starters has left a few voids for the ’Cats to fill.

“We’re going to bring in a couple of junior college transfers and then we have some incoming freshmen that are going to compete for those positions,” Yoder said. “Anytime you have a competitive situation for any positions or any kind of playing time it creates a positive competitive environment.”

While the ’Cats expect a boost from incoming players, Yoder said a lot of gaps will be filled with current players.

“We’re going to try to fill from within,” Yoder said. “The players that are on the roster who are currently filling those spots are doing a very good job staying competitive.”

Yoder said that he expects junior left setter Lina Lopes and Herron to help fill the gap left by senior left setter Emma Wolfe.

The Wildcats play again this weekend as they travel to Minnesota to participate in the St. Cloud State University Volleyball Tournament.

All games are on Saturday, March 24. NMU’s first game is against St. Cloud State at 10 a.m. Then they play again against St. Cloud’s alumni team at noon. The final game is against Winona State University at 1 p.m.