Volleyball returns for spring tourney season

Katie Bultman

Wildcat volleyball is back in session for a spring tournament season that begins this weekend.

The NMU women’s volleyball team has taken to the gym once again for practices that will prepare the ’Cats for four upcoming tournaments.

Senior middle hitter Sarah Hamilton said the girls are looking forward to the tournaments and hoping to improve on the fall season.

“We did pretty good [in the fall],” Hamilton said. “We didn’t quite finish as well as we wanted, but we worked together well.”

The Wildcats finished the 2012 season with a 20-12 overall record, which was an improvement from the 15-14 record that the girls finished within 2011.

Assistant coach Inga Kurgonaite said the team is building its numbers for the 2013 season.

“It was a great season overall,” Kurgonaite said. “We started great and finished well. [For the upcoming season], we signed a few really good freshman. We are working on one more, and this will give us a little more depth and flexibility with the returning players. This season is predicted to be a lot better than last season.”

The first tournament of their spring season is hosted by Eastern Michigan University. The ’Cats will be playing the first game of the spring tournament series against Madonna at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 23 at Eastern Michigan University.

The Wildcats are scheduled to play host EMU at 11 a.m. and then Oakland University at 1:30 p.m. The last game of the tournament for NMU will be at 2:30 p.m. against the Eastern Michigan alumni.

Upcoming tournament games include Saturday, March 30 at Oakland and Saturday, April 6 at Minnesota-Duluth.

Kurgonaite said the team will face tough competition against a couple of Division 1 teams in the tournaments at Eastern Michigan and Oakland.

The coaches hosted individual practices for the girls prior to spring break. After the break, the ’Cats met for team practices to work on basic drills together.

Head coach Dominic Yoder said the Wildcats have been working hard in the spring practices to improve on the 2012 season.

“Practices are going well,” Yoder said. “We are working to create consistency with focus on ball control and utilizing the middles. Last year we went 20-12, and are expecting the returning senior class to do better. We finished fourth in the conference and are hoping to finish top two next season and play competitive for a spot in the national championship.”

The team finishes off the spring season with a tournament from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 13 at the Vandament Arena in Marquette.

The home tournament will host the NMU women’s team, an NMU alumni team, Michigan Tech and Lake Superior State.

Following the tournament, NMU will host the Student-Athlete Awards and Hall of Fame Induction at 7 p.m. in the University Center.

Lucia Pereira Shyiak, a former Wildcat, will be inducted into the NMU Sports Hall of Fame for her efforts on the women’s volleyball team.

Hamilton said she is excited about the upcoming season for the team as they have a good group of girls coming back to play.

“We’re going to be a really good team next year,” Hamilton said. “That hasn’t happened in a while with us having such strong returning starters.”