The NMU volleyball teams begins the 2009 season with the Green and Gold Match Monday (Aug. 24) at 7 p.m. Later in the week the Wildcats host the Wildcat Open (Aug. 27-29).
MARQUETTE, Mich. - The third year of the Dominic Yoder era is set to begin with the Northern Michigan University volleyball program. This year’s squad will be built around the nucleus of five returning seniors. Throw in nine of the 12 letterwinners from last year returning and the Wildcats are ready once again to challenge for a league title. Last year the Wildcats appeared in the NCAA Division II Tournament for the first time since the 2004 season. The ‘Cats lost to Indianapolis in the first round in five sets after dropping the first two.
The ‘Cats finished the 2008 campaign with a 20-12 overall record, which included an 11-5 slate in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC). NMU’s conference slate was good for a fourth-place finish in the GLIAC North Division. Gone from the last year’s squad are Daniela Bezerra, Caryn VanBeckum and Breanne Zaremba. VanBeckum and Bezerra were named to the All-GLIAC Team. VanBeckum was a first-team selection while Bezerra was an honorable mention pick. VanBeckum was second on the squad with 323 kills (3.11 k/s) while Bezerra was third with 318 (2.81 k/s). VanBeckum also led the squad with 43 block solos, was second with 52 block assists and had a team-high 95 total blocks. Zaremba had 280 digs for the ‘Cats in 2008.
Second team all-GLIAC selection and senior Mandie Meyer returns to lead the 2009 Wildcat edition. She led the 2008 team with 405 kills (3.21 k/s) and recorded 36 total blocks (12 solo and 24 assisted). Other seniors who will be looked upon to lead include Katt Garvick, Amy Andersen-Goldsworthy, Rachel Green and Cassie Osiecki. Garvick had 191 kills in 2008, last year and Andersen-Goldsworthy, 38 kills. Green was second on the team with 479 assists and Osiecki recorded a team-leading 484 digs and 45 service aces.
“Our seniors will have to have a great year, regardless if it is Katt (Garvick) or Mandie (Meyer) scoring points on the outside. Amy (Andersen-Goldsworthy) breaking back into the starting line-up as a middle-contributing to the offense and defending blocking. Rachel (Green) filling the defensive shoes of the graduated Breanne Zaremba; or Cassie (Osiecki) out performing her three previous digs/season marks,” said Yoder. “They will all be essential parts to a successful season.”
Underclassmen Becca Feuerherd, Maddie Ogden, Katie Twardzik and Emma Wolfe also return. Feuerherd appeared in all 32 matches last year and tallied 17 service aces. Ogden led the ‘Cats with 821 assists. Twardzik had 22 total blocks (3 solo and 19 assisted). Wolfe was fourth on the team in kills last year with 216 as she also had a team-high 63 block assists to go along with her 14 block solos (second on the team) for 77 total blocks (second on the team).
The ‘Cats welcome seven newcomers to the roster. Dani Branco, Julie Francek, Sarah Hamilton, Dani Kowalski, Abby Lovell, Andree Ring and Sami Vierk will see playing time.
“All of the new players will be very important and will be needed to make an immediate impact on our program,” said Yoder. “Regardless if they are on the backup team or competing for a starting role, it will be essential that they all compete every moment they step between the lines for practice and competition.”
Yoder thinks keys to the success in 2009 will depend on ball control and the ability to serve tough, pass serve reception to keep the squad in system and floor defense-dig to attack. A weakness the ‘Cats must work at this year is blocking. NMU had 226.5 total blocks last year compared to 228.5 for the opponents. The ‘Cats recorded 93 block solos and 267 block assists. “We will have to work hard to overcome through improved floor defense and controlling the rally’s first contact,” said Yoder.
One main area where Yoder would like to see improvement over last year is competing late in sets and matches. NMU went the distance of five sets 10 times last year as the ‘Cats dropped six of the matches. “I thought the 2008 team did a real nice job of warming up well and preparing well to start the match and first set,” said Yoder. “Last year, we had difficulties at times with closing out sets and matches. We look to train better and prepare this year’s team mentally and physically to promote consistency throughout the sets and match entirely.”
NMU should battle Grand Valley State, Saginaw Valley State and Ferris State for one of the top places in the GLIAC North. “The GLIAC is one of the toughest conferences top to bottom for volleyball,” said Yoder. “Look for teams to be young this year with many freshmen contributing.”
Six upperclassmen will lead Northern in 2009. If the newcomers and the rest of the team find the right mix then the ‘Cats should find themselves as one of the top teams in the GLIAC.
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