Spruced-up arena: Expansion at Vandament Arnea to welcome Northern Michigan University volleyball team in September

Northern Michigan University’s Caylie Barlage, left, and Liesel Haugen go to the floor attempting to keep the ball in play during a GLIAC volleyball match played against Michigan Tech at Vandament Arena in Marquette on Oct. 31. (Photo courtesy Cara Kamps)

MARQUETTE — The Northern Michigan University volleyball team won’t get a chance to try out its new refurbished Vandament Arena till a bit into the start of the season, but once the Wildcats do, they should get quite comfortable as they’ll play six straight conference matches there from late September through mid-October.

NMU released its volleyball schedule on Tuesday that features a pair of season-opening tournaments in Minnesota and in Houghton before jumping immediately into the GLIAC season. It’ll be all conference matches the rest of the regular season except for one more tourney in Indiana during mid-October.

In all, Northern has eight or possibly nine matches scheduled for Vandament, which is in the process of being expanded so it can also host Northern basketball games. The volleyball Wildcats might get even more than the eight or nine scheduled matches at Vandament if they can snag a home court berth in the end-of-the-season GLIAC Tournament.

With a large core of returners and a strong freshmen group, the Wildcats have their hopes set high for the upcoming season after 9-9 GLIAC and 12-18 overall records in 2023. NMU started last season slowly at 1-7, facing a number of nationally ranked teams early, before playing .500 the rest of the way.

The season opens in Mankato, Minnesota, at the Minnesota State Tournament with four matches scheduled on Sept. 6 and 7. Match times and opponents have yet to be determined.

Northern Michigan University teammates congratulate Lizzy Stark, No. 18 at front center, after she made a kill in the third set of a GLIAC Tournament volleyball quarterfinal match played against Saginaw Valley State and held at Vandament Arena in Marquette on Nov. 9, 2022. Clockwise from left are the Wildcats' Ania Hyatt, Rayne Thompson, Lauren Van Remortel, Jacqueline Smith and Alli Yacko. (Photo courtesy Daryl T. Jarvinen)

Just before an almost identical weekend much closer to home at the U.P. Open in Houghton on Sept. 13 and 14, NMU Sports Information mentioned in its news release about the schedule that Vandament Arena will host a match on Thursday, Sept. 12, against former GLIAC member Findlay, though the university’s sports website at nmuwildcats.com doesn’t list it.

Either way, the Michigan Tech-hosted tourney on Sept. 13-14 includes four matches, just like the Mankato event.

NMU should enjoy the confines of the SDC Gym as the Wildcats won a pair of regular-season matches against Tech last season before falling to the Huskies in Houghton during the GLIAC tourney quarterfinals.

Once the two early-season tourneys are in the books, Northern will turn to its conference schedule, playing Sept. 20-21 out of state before returning home for three straight weekends.

The GLIAC slate begins in Kenosha, Wisconsin, at Wisconsin-Parkside on Sept. 20 before a match in Hammond, Indiana, at Purdue Northwest on Sept. 21. Times of those matches have yet to be determined.

The Wildcats begin their extended stay at home at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 27, against Davenport, with another home match less than 24 hours later at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 28, vs. GLIAC defending tournament champion Ferris State.

NMU opens October at Vandament hosting Saginaw Valley State at 4 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 4, and Lake Superior State at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 5.

This stretch at home concludes the following weekend with Vandament matches at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 10, against Michigan Tech and at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 12, against the league’s newest member, Roosevelt.

The Wildcats’ third tournament weekend follows on Oct. 18-19 at the Midwest Crossover at Purdue NW’s home of Hammond, Indiana.

Three more matches follow on the road before Northern returns home for the final time in the regular season.

NMU travels to Allendale to take on GLIAC defending regular-season champion Grand Valley State on Friday, Oct. 25, and to Detroit to face Wayne State on Saturday, Oct. 26. Then comes a midweek match at MTU in Houghton on Wednesday, Oct. 30. All these matches don’t have start times determined.

The Wildcats are back home to open November with a Friday, Nov. 1, match against Purdue NW (no start time set) and a match at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 2, against Parkside that will also be Senior Day.

Four more matches over the following two weekends close out the regular season.

NMU will be in Big Rapids to take on Ferris State at 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 8, then in Grand Rapids to face Davenport on Saturday, Nov. 9 (no start time determined).

The next weekend features a match in Sault Ste. Marie to take on LSSU at 3 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 15, and a trip to University Center to meet with SVSU on Saturday, Nov. 16 (no start time set).

That leads into the postseason, where the GLIAC Tournament is expected to take the top eight finishers from the regular season for the quarterfinals on Wednesday, Nov. 20, and the semifinals and finals the following Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 23-24.

Usually, the top four teams get to host quarterfinal matches, with the highest-seeded survivor of that round hosting the semis and finals.

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


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