Volleyball team continues spring sessions at Michigan Tech

Ray Bressette

The NMU women’s volleyball team is in the midst of their spring season, with a trip to Houghton ahead of them this weekend to take on the Michigan Tech Huskies.

The meet, which is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, March 21, will be the second of four matchups the Wildcats will compete in this spring.

Freshman left setter and middle hitter Madison Whitehead said the team is competing at a higher level since they hit the court last November.

“We’ve definitely improved since the end of last season,” Whitehead said. “The defense has picked it up and has become a lot better. Last season we were a really young team, so we need to improve all the skills we’ve been working on.”

Last weekend, NMU hit the court at the campus of Grand Valley State University, where the ’Cats competed against GVSU and Wayne State University Saturday, March 15 in Allendale, Mich.

The matches, as all spring matches are, were based on three-hour periods opposed to sets and scores.

Freshman setter Jami Hogeboom said the ’Cats execute spring play as if they were playing regular season matches.

“These matches are still very intense, even if it doesn’t count toward the standings,” Hogeboom said. “You always want to play as hard as you can. It was really exciting last weekend to see how hard work and training starts to come together on the court, and it was fun to see everyone working hard.”

The ’Cats are coming off a 2014 season in which they finished 14-14 overall and 14-4 in conference play, ranking them third out of eight teams in the GLIAC North Division.

Junior left setter Lisa Studnicka led the Wildcats in points last season, scoring 330 total and averaging 3.6 points per set.

Whitehead followed, averaging 3.2 points per set. Junior libero/defensive specialist Alex Berger put up 512 digs on the season, averaging 5.02 per set.

The Wildcats did not have any seniors on their squad in 2014, and junior players defensive specialist Lindsey Keough and setters Stacy Kalsbeek, Studnicka and Berger have served as the team veterans.

NMU head coach Dominic Yoder said the lack of seniors gives them an opportunity to work with the same roster the team will be competing with next season.

“Going into next year will be a huge advantage for us because we’ve had this group for two seasons,” Yoder said. “They’ve had two full training cycles to be able to prepare them for the next opportunity. For the freshmen, it’s a normal thing for them to come in and go through that first competition and begin the training cycle at NMU.”

The Wildcats will host their only competition of the spring on Saturday, April 11 when they host Michigan Tech and Lake Superior State University at Vandament Arena.

Yoder said spring practice plays a crucial role in the team’s preparation for the upcoming season.

“For our young players, we’re trying to make the progression from being a really good high school player to reaching the college level and compete at a high level,” Yoder said. “For our juniors, we’re trying to polish the skills they’ve learned up to this point, and add on a few more strategies to become better with consistency.”