Busy Wildcat weekend: 4 Northern Michigan University volleyball matches featured during eight-school Wildcat Open

Northern Michigan University’s Sarah Kuehn keeps her eye on the ball as it comes over the net in a volleyball match against Lake Superior State University on Sept. 16 at Vandament Arena. (Journal file photo)

By Journal Sports Staff

MARQUETTE — The Northern Michigan University volleyball team plays at home for the first time this season on Friday and Saturday when it hosts the Wildcat Open.

There will be 16 matches held during the tournament, including four involving NMU. For a majority of the event, one match will be played at a time, though a second court will be employed four times for simultaneous matches involving NMU, Lake Superior State, Michigan Tech, Northwood, Minnesota-Crookston, Bemidji State, St. Cloud State and Minnesota-Duluth.

Friday’s first match between Lake Superior State and Minnesota-Crookston begins at 9 a.m. Friday, with matches starting every two hours until the final match is played between NMU and Minnesota-Duluth at 7 p.m. Earlier in the day, NMU will face Minnesota-Crookston at 1 p.m.

Saturday will run on the same schedule, with Minnesota-Crookston taking on Northwood at 9 a.m. and NMU and St. Cloud State facing off at 7 p.m. Northern’s early match Saturday is against Bemidji State at 1 p.m.

Northern Michigan University’s Rachel Braunschweig, center, watches the ball as it goes over the net in a match against Lake Superior State University on Sept. 16 at Vandament Arena. (Journal file photo)

The full schedule, live stats and video links and Wildcat Open program are available at the Wildcat Open Page at http://www.nmuwildcats.com/sports/wvball/2018-19/2018_Wildcat_Open. In addition, NMU’s progress can be followed on Twitter at @NMU_Wildcats throughout the weekend.

Last weekend, NMU opened its season with a 4-0 record by winning each of its matches at the Capital Classic hosted by University of Illinois-Springfield. The Wildcats started by defeating McKendree 3-1 and Walsh 3-0 on Friday, then downed Cedarville 3-1 and the host Prairie Stars 3-2 on Saturday.

Northern senior Maggie Liebeck started the season strong as she was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, totaling 53 kills and a .404 hitting percentage, while she was second on the team with eight blocks.

Two players achieved 50 kills and 50 digs during that opening weekend. Senior Autumn Monsma posted 50 kills and 51 digs, while sophomore Leticia Antunes had 50 kills and 52 digs. The pair each added five total blocks as well.

As a team, the Wildcats are ranked 14th nationally with 217 kills already this season.

In addition to Liebeck, Monsma and Antunes, junior Sarah Kuehn chipped in with 40 kills.

Northern Michigan University's Autumn Monsma, center, bumps the ball during a match against Saginaw Valley State in November 2016 at Vandament Arena in Marquette. (Journal file photo)

NMU is also receiving votes in this week’s American Volleyball Coaches Association national top 25 poll.

The Wildcats are among leaders in a number of categories in the GLIAC. Liebeck is fifth in the league with 3.31 kills per set and fourth in total kills. She leads the league in hitting percentage while Kuehn is fifth. Senior Lynzi Svoboda is fourth with 10.31 assists per set. As a team, NMU is third in aces, kills, hitting percentage and assists.

The Wildcats are 8-0 all-time against Crookston but the teams haven’t played since 2013. The Golden Eagles enter the weekend 1-3 with their lone victory a 3-1 decision over new GLIAC member Wisconsin-Parkside.

Duluth enters the weekend ranked No. 1 in NCAA Division II with a 4-0 record and have controlled the all-time series with NMU in recent years. The Wildcats will look to pull the upset as well as end a 10-match losing streak to the Bulldogs.

Bemidji State collected three victories at the Wisconsin-Parkside Tournament last weekend. Last season, NMU swept the Beavers 3-0 and are 9-1 overall against the Beavers, including eight sweeps.

St. Cloud gets back to action this week upon returning from Hawaii where they weren’t able to play at all due to Hurricane Lane. NMU has won the past 14 matchups between the two schools, including a 3-0 sweep last season.

Information compiled by Journal Sports Editor Steve Brownlee. His email address is sbrownlee@miningjournal.net.