Second tournament ends in victories: ’Cats spike their way to 3-2 win against Northwood and Michigan

The women’s volleyball team finished 3-2 in a tournament over Easter weekend that hosted several Division I teams and a conference champion.

On Saturday, March 30, the ’Cats traveled to Oakland University where they faced final four contender University of Michigan, along with the 2012 GLIAC conference champion team, Northwood.

Head coach Dominic Yoder said the tournament offered difficult competition for the Wildcats.

“All the teams we played were very strong teams,” Yoder said. “University of Michigan is a final four national championship Division I team, Cleveland State is another Division I team that competed in the top of their conference and was a contender for the NCAA tournament.

Northwood won the GLIAC conference last season, Grand Valley State University went to the NCAA tournament and Madonna was top five in the nation in the NIAA conference.”

The ’Cats finished with 2-1 victories over Northwood and Grand Valley State, both of which were conference teams that the women had played in the 2012 season.

The game against Northwood proved to be a competitive one between the conference teams, as the game went into extra points, resulting in a 22-20 win for NMU. The tournament was set up so that the games went to 15 points each, and the winner was best out of three games after being required to win two.

The most recent time NMU faced Northwood was Saturday, Nov. 3, resulting in a 0-3 loss for the Wildcats. The recent improvement during the tournament left the ’Cats with the edge.

Junior left side Lina Lopes said the game against Northwood was a very good one for both teams.

“We just went for it,” Lopes said. “They’re in our conference, which gave us extra motivation to beat them and prepare for next fall. There was pretty good competition at the tournament, and both games [against the conference teams] went to the third set.”

Prior to that game, NMU also played fellow conference team Grand Valley State on Friday, Oct. 26, resulting in a 3-2 win for the ’Cats.

In addition, NMU went with a 2-0 victory over Madonna and finished with 0-2 losses against both Michigan and Cleveland.

Yoder said the team played close with the Division 1 teams, but inconsistencies kept the ’Cats from taking home match victories.

“For both of the losses, the scores were in the 20s,” Yoder said. “The team played consistent in our wins, but had critical inconsistencies during our losses. The inconsistencies were more of individual and technical breakdowns and errors than team ones.”

Yoder said the team worked well together this week, a continuation of one of their strengths. Yoder also said the team put in an effort on the defensive end that aided in the three victories in the tournament games.

“The team blocked and played floor defense more successfully,” Yoder said. “The team also attacked more efficiently, but still needs to improve upon minor inconsistencies.”

This weekend, the ’Cats face University of Minnesota-Duluth and St. Cloud State in a tournament hosted by UMD. Originally, the University of Minnesota-Duluth alumni were scheduled to play in the tournament. Instead, the University of Wisconsin-Superior will replace the alumni team.

Freshman libero and defensive specialist Alex Berger said the team improved in last weekend’s tournament from the first tournament of the spring season, and they hope to continue to improve in the upcoming games at UMD.

“We had really good team chemistry, as we did last year, and it shows on the court,” Berger said. “[This weekend] we are expecting hard, tough competition. All of the teams are coming out in full spring to prove a lot.”

The first game for the Wildcats opens against UW-Superior at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, Apr. 6 at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

UMD is likely to offer the ’Cats the greatest competition of the tournament, after coming off of an 18-2 NSIC conference record, finishing third in the conference.

This week in practice, the Wildcats are going to focus on areas that have not been as strong during the spring season.

“Our focus this week will be to strengthen our successes with improved team defense and blocking,” Yoder said. “We also want to iron out a few player technical issues on the offensive side this week in practices.”