MARQUETTE - Win 20 games and make it into the postseason.
Simply put, those were the two goals of the Northern Michigan University volleyball team at the beginning of this season.
On Saturday, both of those goals were set in stone as the Wildcats defeated Lake Superior State University in four sets, 25-13, 25-10, 20-25, 25-5, to end the regular season.
NMU junior middle hitter Sarah Hamilton goes up for a kill against Lake Superior State on Saturday, which was both Senior Day and the Wildcats’ last game of the regular season. Hamilton finished with six kills and NMU went on to win 3-1 over the Lakers, marking its 20th regular season win. (Journal photo by Amanda Monthei)
The win marked the second of the weekend, as Northern celebrated Senior Day on Saturday, while on Friday, the 'Cats defeated Saginaw Valley in four sets.
"(This was our) 20th victory, and that was the No. 1 goal that they had going into this year was that they wanted to win 20-plus and get into the postseason," NMU head coach Dominic Yoder said. "And we've achieved that."
The win was the four seniors' - Kalin Zimmerman, Andree Ring, Jasmine Calhoun and Bailey Franklin -last of the regular season, and last home game of their careers.
Northern, who opens the GLIAC tournament at Ashland on Wednesday, is now 20-11 overall with its milestone win, and 12-6 in the GLIAC. LSSU is now 4-25 overall and 1-17 in the conference.
The Lakers, despite sizable losses in the first, second and fourth sets, came through with a five-point win the third set, which Yoder attributes to not only a lack of focus on the Wildcats' part, but also a surge in LSSU momentum.
"It all comes down to focus," Yoder said. "We had too many return errors and not enough blocks to slow them down. They got hot offensively and you know, that's the ebb and flow of volleyball. It just happens."
As of recently, a couple key terms - serve reception, energy and focus - have dominated Yoder and the Wildcats' attention. The third-set loss on Saturday night was no different in what issues the Wildcats had to deal with.
"Our serve reception and our blocking was not quality in set three and Lake State came out there and they competed," Yoder said. "They competed from start to finish, we were just a little bit better in the other three sets."
Despite the one-set lost, the Wildcats dominated the floor against the Lakers, racking up 11 team blocks behind three Calhoun solo blocks. Junior Kalli Herron led offensively with 13 kills, while junior Lina Lopes was close behind with 10. Zimmerman, a libero, notched 12 digs, while Ring managed seven kills.
"It comes down to leadership, our captains," Yoder said. "It's Kalli Herron, it's Lina Lopes and it's Kellisha Harley. They've got to refocus our team and make sure everyone is staying within themselves and doing their own jobs."
For the Lakers in the loss, Emily Snyder notched nine kills while Meghan Drobish had three service aces and 11 digs.
Amanda Monthei can be reached at 228-2500 or at firstname.lastname@example.org