MARQUETTE - It's often surprising to hear when GLIAC athletes come from outside of the Midwest, so when the announcer calls out the Northern Michigan University volleyball starters, "Belo Horizonte, Brazil" turns more than a couple heads.
But to senior Lina Lopes, it's home.
Last weekend's home matches against Grand Valley State and Ferris State were the first time Lopes' parents had the opportunity to travel to Marquette and watch her play collegiate volleyball.
Northern Michigan University senior outside hitter Lina Lopes celebrates a Wildcats point against Michigan Tech on Tuesday at Vandament Arena in Marquette. It was Lopes’ final regular season game in Marquette as a Wildcat. (Journal photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
"Both games, just to know that they were here ... I can't even describe it," Lopes said.
As the Wildcats close out their regular season, Lopes tries to fight back the impending emotions of her senior year.
"I just can't believe it's the last year," Lopes said. "I don't even want to think about it until it's over."
Lopes leads the 'Cats in kills this season with 310 and is also ranked second on the team in digs with 275 and in service aces with 33.
Throughout the season, head coach Dominic Yoder consistently said he was impressed with Lopes' play.
"She's responsible for a lot of skills on the volleyball court," Yoder said after last week's match against Ferris. "She does a lot more than attack."
Lopes has a strong track record at NMU, dating back to her freshman year when she was awarded the GLIAC Freshman of the Year, GLIAC First Team All-Conference and Midwest Region "Freshman of the Year" by AVCA.
Since then, Lopes has led the Wildcats in at least one statistical category each year and is known to regularly post double digit kills in matches.
Last year, she was an All-GLIAC First Team selection and named the team's most valuable player.
The Wildcats currently sit second in the GLIAC standings, while statistically Lopes is ranked fourth in points, sixth in kills per set and eighth in service aces per set.
Lopes said she wants the whole team to stay focused through the next two weekends, win games and stay on the top of the GLIAC so the 'Cats have a chance at hosting at least a first-round game, if not the entire GLIAC tournament.
Northern plays at 7 p.m. tonight at Hillsdale and at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Northwood.
The Wildcats close the regular season at Nov. 15 at Saginaw Valley State and Nov. 16 at Lake Superior State.