MARQUETTE - Coming down to its final two matches of the regular season at home this weekend, the Northern Michigan University volleyball team maintains one season-long goal - to win 20 games before the postseason.
To accomplish that goal, the Wildcats will have to defeat both Saginaw Valley State and Lake Superior State this weekend, with the Cardinals visiting Vandament Arena at 7 p.m. on Friday and the Lakers visiting Marquette at 4 p.m. on Saturday for Senior Day.
If the Wildcats hit the magic number of 20, they won't just accomplish a season-long goal, but they will further their chances in both the GLIAC and NCAA regional tournaments that are approaching in the coming weeks.
Northern Michigan University senior middle hitter Jasmine Calhoun (10) goes for the kill on Friday against Hillsdale at Vandament Arena in Marquette. (Journal photo by Amanda Monthei)
"We want to improve our seeding, we want to get to maybe a six or a five seed (in the GLIAC)," NMU head coach Dominic
Yoder said. "I think the importance of this weekend is to really push the limits in order to give ourselves some better opportunities in the post season."
Sitting at seventh in the GLIAC after splitting last weekend with a win over Hillsdale (3-1) and a loss to Northwood (3-0), the Wildcats could get as high in the standings as fourth if everything goes just right. However, that would require Grand Valley State to lose both of its matches this weekend, while the 'Cats would have to win both of theirs.
"We've now played every team in the GLIAC and we decided yesterday that there is not a team in the conference that we couldn't beat," freshman Lisa Studnicka said. "We've lost some GLIAC matches this year, but they were matches that we could have won. We're excited to be going into the tournament."
According to Studnicka and Yoder, wins this weekend and success in the postseason will rely heavily on the team's energy and a maintained focus in the coming weeks.
"Lately, everything has been clicking on the court, so it's easier to get excited about big plays," Studnicka said. "I think if we keep supporting each other, the energy comes with it."
Yoder agrees, acknowledging that the team has established strong momentum in the past couple matches and weeks of practice.
"If we play at the level that we're capable of playing at - that is, energy level, consistency, the way we're focusing - if we're able to do those things, we're going to be very successful," he said.
Additionally, the team's seniors will be playing their final home games this weekend, and will celebrate Senior Day on Saturday.
Andree Ring, Kalin Zimmerman, Jasmine Calhoun and Bailey Franklin are the four players that the Wildcats are losing to graduation after this year.
"Andree Ring has been with us for four years and has worked her tail off to try to get the opportunities that she has, and her role coming off the bench has been tremendous," Yoder said. "Jasmine Calhoun is finally coming into her own abilities that we planned for last year and has really helped us be successful. Kalin Zimmerman has really had some good performances over the last six matches and we're hoping that she continues to finalize her senior year."
The final senior, former NMU track and field standout Franklin, was lost to an injury early in the season. Still, Yoder appreciated her constant positivity and said that having an All-American athlete around, regardless of her injury, was very beneficial for the team.
"She brought that All-American attitude from track and field, just that necessity to prepare for competition is really what Bailey is all about," Yoder said. "She's really infected our team with that idea, that you've got to prepare and that success will happen after preparation. Having her attitude and having her positivity has just been a tremendous asset for the team."