The NMU volleyball team defeated Malone at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11 in Vandament Arena and went on to defeat Walsh at 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12, claiming their tenth 3-0 shutout of the season.
Senior leftside/middle hitter Kalli Herron said this was a very big weekend for the Wildcats.
“We needed these two wins to stay on top of the conference and hold a high rank,” Herron said. “The game against Malone we played a little sloppy and not as well as we hoped, but we came out with the win.”
The Wildcats took an early lead in the first set of the GLIAC match, leading by seven points for most of the set.
Malone was able to tighten the game to three, trailing 20-17, before the Wildcats scored five of the last six points of the set.
A defensive battle ensued in the second set, with nine ties and four lead changes.
Neither team was able to claim a hefty lead, and the Wildcats won the set 25-22. Senior leftside hitter Lina Lopes finished the set with a kill for NMU off an assist by senior setter Kellisha Harley, taking the 2-0 lead.
The Pioneers started set three with a 2-0 lead. The Wildcats responded by tying the set at three.
The match remained close with six ties before NMU was able to pull away with a 14-9 lead.
The Pioneers tightened the battle again by coming within one point, 20-19, but they were unable to pull through. An attack error by the Pioneers gave NMU their 25-22 win.
Herron and senior middle hitter Sarah Hamilton lead the Wildcats offensively with 11 kills. Lopes added another 10 kills for the Wildcats.
Sophomore libero/defensive specialist Alex Berger had 11 digs to lead the defense, and Harley set up the Wildcats with 41 assists. The team tallied a total of 49 kills and a .288 attack percentage.
Malone was led by Anna Hays with eight kills. Taylor Slauterbeck contributed another seven.
Slauterbeck also led the Pioneers defensively with 13 digs. The team finished the match with 33 kills and a .163 attack percentage.
Hamilton said the weekend victories over both Malone and Walsh were important.
“We followed our game plan for each team which led us to the two victories,” Hamilton said. “Walking away from the weekend with wins is always exciting.”
The Wildcats continued their weekend in Vandament Arena against Walsh University. NMU won the GLIAC match with their second shutout of the weekend.
Berger served to open the first set, taking an early 6-0 lead for NMU. Berger’s serving included two service aces.
The Wildcats, who led by as many as 12 at one point, never let the Cavaliers recover in the set. Herron had four kills in this set, including one to secure the Wildcats’ 25-15 win.
Similar to set one, set two began with Berger serving and a 4-0 lead for the Wildcats. The Cavaliers were able to tighten the score to just one point, 14-13, before the Wildcats pulled away with four consecutive points on Hamilton’s serving.
Two points of these were service aces by Hamilton, who also went on to close the set 25-18 with a kill.
Set three began with the Cavaliers’ first lead of the afternoon, 1-0. Freshman rightside hitter Alex Larsen helped the Wildcats take back the lead with five consecutive points. Larsen tallied five kills in this set.
The Cavaliers were never able to come within more than four points for the rest of the set. Hamilton secured the 25-10 victory with a kill, assisted by Berger.
Herron said NMU was anxious about defeating Walsh.
“Since we lost to Walsh in five [sets] last year, we were very eager to win this year,” Herron said. “We played with great energy and had a lot of fun on the court, which helped us with the win in three. This was a good weekend for us and we are looking forward to the upcoming games in Ohio this weekend.”
Offensively, the Wildcats were led by Hamilton, who had 10 kills in the afternoon matchup.
Larsen tallied nine kills and Lopes added eight. Setting up the offense, Harley finished with a total of 35 assists.
Lopes led defensively with 10 digs and Berger added seven. NMU tallied eight team blocks and a .398 hitting percentage.
The Cavaliers were led offensively by Kelsey Snider, who tallied eight kills and Krissy Sokol, who added seven. The team finished with 20 total kills and a .068 attack percentage. Devin Hummel led the team’s defense with nine digs and Haley Howell set up the offense with 19 assists.
Head coach Dominic Yoder said he was proud of the Wildcat performance.
“I thought the team played very well this weekend to help place NMU in a three-way tie for first place in the GLIAC,” Yoder said. “Herron, Hamilton and Harley all had strong performances. Our offense was dominated this weekend, but our serving really helped our defense work pretty easy.”
The Wildcats are now 8-1 in the GLIAC and 14-5 overall. They are in a three-way tie with Grand Valley State University and Ferris State University for the lead in the conference.
Hamilton said the Walsh game meant a lot to the team after losing to them last season.
“Everyone on the team brought a great amount of energy and excitement Saturday as we took on Walsh,” Hamilton said. “We also understand that next weekend’s matches are just as important as these. We are going to take pride in this weekend and build off of that momentum.”
NMU will travel this weekend for back-to-back away games. The first game will be at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18 at Ohio Dominican, and the second at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19 at Tiffin.