The NMU volleyball team opens up the 2010 season Thursday night with a match against UW-Parkside. NMU hosts the Superior Oasis Wildcat Open Sept. 2-4.
MARQUETTE, Mich. - Dominic Yoder enters his fourth season at the helm of the Northern Michigan University volleyball program and is very pleased with what his team is returning. The squad is looking to pick up right where they left off from last season. NMU earned its second consecutive berth to the NCAA Division II Tournament. Unfortunately, the season came to an end in the quarterfinals of the Midwest Region with a loss to fellow conference member Hillsdale.
Last season the ‘Cats closed the chapter on a group of seniors who were tremendous leaders on and off the court. Katt Garvick, Rachel Green, Mandie Meyer, Amy Andersen-Goldsworthy and Cassie Osiecki led the team to an overall record of 19-12 and 11-5 in Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) play which was good for a third-place finish.
Andersen-Goldsworthy and Meyer were selected to the GLIAC first team. Osiecki was picked for the second team while Garvick was an honorable mention selection. Meyer was named to the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Midwest Region Team as an honorable mention selection.
On the plus side of things the ‘Cats return a good group of student-athletes who received a significant amount of playing time last season and have shown improvement over the off season. Sophomores Abby Lovell, Sami Vierk and Dani Branco will look to be the leaders of the young squad that consist of seven sophomores, two juniors and one senior. Lovell appeared in 68 matches last season and had a team-high 596 assists. Vierk played in 75 matches and was fifth on the team in kills with 125.
“With those players this season may feel like a rebuilding year, but not necessary,” said Yoder. “These three have really grown over the last four months and are ready to be the leaders of this team.”
NMU has a very good freshmen class coming in which will be anchored by two international players Ana Caroline Lopes and Ellen Lemos from Brazil. Yoder expects both of these players to make an immediate impact.
The ‘Cats will welcome two new coaches to the staff, Kim Falkenhagan and Hayvolla Leite. Falkenhagan was a member of NMU teams which reached the national championship match in back-to-back years. The ‘Cats won the national title in 1994 and were runner-up in 1995. For the 1995 tournament she was named to the NCAA All-Tournament Team after posting a hitting percentage of .867 against Virginia Wesleyan, which still stands as a tournament record.
“Kim brings in a lot of head coaching experience, she was a great player and bring great teaching,” said Yoder. “She will help us be a better blocking team.”
Leite enters her first season at Northern as the graduate assistant coach after finishing up her volleyball career at Eastern Michigan University.
While at Eastern Michigan Leite played left side hitter and earned Mid-American Conference (MAC) west division player of the week honors.
“Hayvolla Brings a lot of experience,” said Yoder. “She brings leadership, techniques and skill based teaching which is what she is familiar with from her time in Brazil. She will fit into our coaching philosophy,” said Yoder.
“This is a good coaching staff for a young team,” added Yoder.
Looking into the GLIAC, Hillsdale looks like the team to beat. The ‘Cats split during the season and lost to them in NCAA Division II Tournament. Other teams the ‘Cats could contend with include Ferris State, Saginaw Valley State and Grand Valley State.
The ‘Cats are looking to finish in the top three this season and with the talent they are bringing back and receiving things look very positive for 2010.
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Outlook by Michael Levy