Northern Michigan University volleyball team splits on road, returning home this weekend

Northern Michigan University's Alli Yacko, right, digs a Ferris State hit as teammate Jacqueline Smith watches the play early in the first set of their GLIAC volleyball match played at Vandament Arena in Marquette on Sept. 17. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

MARQUETTE — The Northern Michigan University volleyball team was knocked from its perch atop the GLIAC but recovered in time to win a five-set marathon a day later.

The Wildcats lost on the road to the team its shared first place with in the GLIAC, Ferris State, then bounced back to defeat Lake Superior State.

Now tied for second place with Davenport with a 7-2 league mark, Northern still has the best overall record in the league at 14-3.

This weekend, NMU returns home to Vandament Arena to take on Wayne State at 7 p.m. Friday and Saginaw Valley State at 4 p.m. Saturday. Both of this weekend’s opponents are middle of the pack in the GLIAC at 5-4.

Here is a synopsis of last weekend’s road trip:


Ferris State 3, NMU 1

On Friday evening at Big Rapids, the Bulldogs prevailed 26-24, 25-22, 23-25, 25-13.

FSU (8-1 GLIAC) will have a tiebreaker over Northern if it comes down to that as Ferris also won in Marquette on Sept. 17.

On Friday, Jacqueline Smith led the Wildcats with 20 kills, while teammate Rayne Thompson added a career-best 12. And Northern’s Alli Yacko made 14 digs, while Lauren Van Remortel had 46 assists.

In the opening set, the Bulldogs jumped out early before NMU tied it 9-9 after back-to-back kills, the tying one by Smith.

But FSU retook the lead on the strength of a 5-0 run, though the Wildcats returned the favor with a 6-1 string that gave them a 19-18 advantage. In the NMU streak, Smith, Lizzy Stark and Meghan Meyer had kills while Madeline Crowley had a service ace.

The rest of the set remained close, with only two instances when the teams were more than one point apart till the end, when Ferris scored back-to-back points to take it.

Ferris again jumped out in the second set, but opened bigger leads of 10-4, 17-10 and 22-15. NMU used a 5-2 run to pull within 24-22, but a Chelsie Freeman kill for Ferris ended that set.

Needing a win to remain in the match, Northern dug itself an early hole in the third set by giving up the first four points.

But the Wildcats recovered and worked their way back to an 8-8 tie after a Smith kill and Ferris attack error.

They used that comeback to springboard to a big lead with a 7-1 run to go ahead 20-13. In that streak, Crowley had two aces and Caylie Barlage one, while Smith had two kills and Meyer and Stark one each.

The Bulldogs never caught NMU again, though they got within 24-23 before a Stark kill ended the set.

Ferris got back to business for the final set, jumping out to a 7-2 lead before bumping it to an almost insurmountable 16-6 advantage. Northern never got closer than nine points with the final point a Wildcats attack error.


NMU 3, Lake Superior State 2

On Saturday afternoon at Sault Ste. Marie, NMU had to come back twice before finally prevailing, 18-25, 25-17, 23-25, 25-16, 15-8.

Smith had 22 kills to again lead the Wildcats as Stark added 19. Smith also led Northern with three aces, while Stark and Meyer each had two blocks.

Yacko by far led NMU in digs with 25 as Van Remortel made 50 assists.

In the first set, there were plenty of streaks. LSSU led 3-0 out the gate, but NMU jumped ahead 7-5 before immediately giving up four straight points to fall behind 9-7.

Though the Lakers wouldn’t relinquish their lead, the Wildcats trailed just 20-18 after a Stark kill before the Lakers scored the final five points that included a pair of NMU errors.

In its first comeback of the match, Northern used a 5-0 run in the second set to take a 10-6 lead spurred by a pair of Smith kills.

While the ‘Cats wouldn’t give up that lead, LSSU got within 12-11 before a 7-2 streak bumped the lead back to 19-13. In that string, Smith had an ace and Thompson and Stark a kill apiece.

NMU continued to pour it on, ending the set on a Smith kill.

The teams went streaky again in the third set, with the Lakers jumping out to a 6-1 bulge before the Wildcats first tied it and then took an 11-10 lead with three straight points on two Smith kills and a Meyer ace.

The set stayed close the rest of the way, including at 23-23, before Lake State got back-to-back points on a Taylor Fleming kill and Ally Lasley ace to end it.

Northern got back to work in the fourth set, flying out to a 7-1 start after three Smith kills and two by Stark. The lead ballooned to 18-9, while after that the teams traded points until NMU’s McKenzie Gruner made the set-ending kill.

In the final-set race to 15, the Wildcats scored the first two points including a Smith kill, then turned a tenuous 9-7 advantage into a 14-7 edge after a pair of Smith kills, a Yacko ace and two Ferris errors.

Facing seven match points, LSSU staved off elimination once before a final Smith kill ended the weekend.

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


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