MARQUETTE, Mich. – The 2011 Northern Michigan volleyball looks to have another successful season and make a deep run into the NCAA Tournament. The ‘Cats have qualified for the NCAA Tournament three years in a row and plan to advance farther than the first round.
Nine letterwinners return for head coach Dominic Yoder. Leading the way will be 2010 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year Lina Lopes. Lopes is a 5-10, left-side hitting sophomore from Belo Horizonte, Brazil. She was also named American Volleyball Coaches Association Midwest Freshman of the Year, GLIAC first team all-conference, NCAA Regional all-tournament team and Wildcat Open all-tournament team. Lopes led the team with 312 kills, 49 service aces and 309 digs in 2010.
GLIAC first teamer Abby Lovell returns for her junior year as the setter. She was fourth in the GLIAC in assists per set at 10.21. GLIAC second teamer Sami Vierk also returns for her junior year on the front line as the middle hitter. She had 306 kills and 56 blocks a season ago. Senior Emma Wolfe was an all-conference honorable mention a year ago as a left side and middle hitter. She had 277 kills and a .249 attack percentage.
Senior Becca Feuerherd and sophomore Kristin Wetzel bring experience to the back row on the defensive end as the two combined for 574 digs in 2010. Sophomore Ellen Lemos bring size to the right side.
Yoder also brought two junior college transfers from Kishwaukee College. Kalin Zimmerman, a libero and defensive specialist, along with Jasmine Calhoun, a right side and middle blocker, who will add even more depth to the NMU lineup.
Last season the ‘Cats started the season on a 17-game winning streak and finished 22-7 and 15-4 in the GLIAC just behind Hillsdale and Grand Valley. They also climbed as high as No. 13 in the country and finished ranked No. 23.
Yoder scheduled very competitive nonconference opponents to build the team up for the postseason. NMU opens the season at a tournament hosed by four-time defending NCAA Champions Concordia-St. Paul. Games against Southwest Minnesota State, Central Missouri and Concordia-St. Paul will be very tough matchups to start the year as all three teams finished in the top 10 a year ago. Minnesota-Duluth is another good nonconference opponent as well as the three games played in the GLIAC/Great Lakes Valley Conference Crossover Tournament. 12 of the 27 matches will be played in Vandament Arena where the ‘Cats are 36-7 in the last four years.
The ‘Cats were among one of three GLIAC teams to be ranked in the American Volleyball Coaches Association preseason poll. Northern was 25th in the poll, with Grand Valley and Hillsdale number s eight and 10, respectively. Nonconference opponent Concordia-St. Paul was predicted as number one, and Minnesota-Duluth as number 12.
Coach Yoder’s team looks to be a stand out in the conference as the ‘Cats were picked to be the top northern division team in the GLIAC preseason poll. Northern received 34 points in the poll, with Grand Valley in second with 32, and Ferris State in third with 25. For the south division, Hillsdale was first with 36 points, and Ashland with 29 for second place.