Young talent shines at Keweenaw Classic

TALENTED+YOUTH%E2%80%94After+their+first+tournament+of+the+season%2C+and+the+UIndy+Invitational+coming+up%2C+the+Wildcats+are+looking+for+more+than+a+split+this+time+around.

TALENTED YOUTH—After their first tournament of the season, and the UIndy Invitational coming up, the Wildcats are looking for more than a split this time around. Photo courtesy of NMU Athletics.

Travis Nelson

NMU’s Volleyball team came out of its first tournament of the season, Michigan Tech’s Keweenaw Classic, with a 2-2 record. NMU defeated Mary University (MU) 3-2 in their first game, and then proceeded to drop its next two matches to Southwest Minnesota State (SMSU) and Upper Iowa University (UIU), both in four sets. The Wildcats ended the tournament with a big five-set  match win, as they defeated Minnesota-Crookston University (MCU), 3-2. After splitting their first four games of the season, their play wasn’t anything out of the ordinary in the eyes of head coach Mike Lozier.

“It’s kind of what I expected a little bit. The biggest thing is that we played two super quality opponents, and then two teams that really pushed us, and we learned a ton,” Lozier said. “But we got to see a lot of freshmen and sophomores get playing time, learn a bunch; we got better.”

Sophomores Lizzie Stark and Hailey Wickstrom led the Wildcats offensively with 66 and 49 kill  respectively, while freshman Lauren Van Remortel led the team far and away with 132 assists. Wickstrom was also named to the All-Tournament Team for her consistent play this past weekend.

Lozier said he saw a photo from one of their matches that at one time, featured seven underclassmen in the game at the same time for NMU, and he likes what he is seeing from the future of the program.

“[We] played a lot of young talented girls, and they performed really well,” Lozier said. “I think the biggest thing that showed that was during the Southwest Minnesota match, we were down 17-5 in the third set and came back and got the win in that set and pushed them to the brink in the first set and pushed them in the fourth set as well. So we showed that we have the talent, it’s just a matter of continuing to get better.”

Lozier said it was tough to get star middle blocker  Sarah Kuehn touches due to the Wildcats’ lack of good passing, so he made sure that was what his team would be working on in preparation for this weekend’s tournament                       in Indianapolis.

 “This week we only had three days to train before we leave on Thursday, and we hit the ground running on Monday, [with] a ton of reps on passing, like I mentioned we struggled with passing, so our hope is when we step on the floor Friday that our passing is better.” 

This weekend, Northern travels to Indianapolis to compete in the UIndy Invitational, hosted by the University of Indianapolis (UIndy). Coach Lozier had some thoughts as the team prepares to leave on Thursday before their first match on Friday.

“We’re really excited. I know it’s only been three weeks in, but I’ve had a really great time working with these girls. Throughout the entire weekend between matches, the girls were watching film of their matches before that they played two hours before, they were asking questions about how they can get better, offering suggestions to Kristen and I,” Lozier said. “Because we have a little bit of turnover in our roster, that opened up a position where there are girls that are fighting for it and it’s created a fun dynamic where the team is really invested in playing as a team and not leaning on any particular player.” 

NMU will open up the tournament against a familiar foe: conference rival Davenport University (DU) on Friday, while also taking on Minnesota State-Moorhead (MSMU). On Saturday, the Wildcats’ doubleheader consists of facing Saint Leo University (SLU) and Gannon University (GU). Coach Lozier isn’t necessarily looking at the results, he wants his team to                            play the right way.

“Just as a team as long as we’re continuing to trend in the right way, I feel like every match we walked out, we feel like we got better coming out of the weekend,” Lozier said. Whether we’re 0-4 or 4-0, we feel like we’re a better team heading into conference play.”

The Wildcats square off against Davenport at 12:30 pm in UIndy’s Ruth Lily Fitness Center on Friday, Sept. 13.