Just one more time

Alumni return for match against current NMU?volleyball team

NMU player Abby Fortune hits the ball during the NMU volleyball alumni game at Vandament Arena Saturday evening April 13, 2019. (Journal photo by Corey Kelly)

MARQUETTE — A handful of former Northern Michigan University volleyball players got a chance to step on the court one last time Saturday afternoon at Vandament Arena.

Those alumni took on the current Wildcats in an exhibition three-set match that benefited both sides as the ex-players got another opportunity to showcase their skills, while next year’s team got one more taste of competition before the summer break.

“We’ve always wanted to do something with our alumni and I’d spent a lot of time trying to figure out the best time to do it,” NMU head coach Mike Lozier said. “We decided ‘Let’s just do it and whoever comes, comes’ and we’re going to build off of that.

“This is something that we want to do annually because we’ve had a ton of history and success in this program and we want to show that. We want to bring players back that have been here and everybody likes coming back to Marquette. It’s about giving them opportunities to do that.

“It’s also an opportunity to still compete and get better and do it at our home floor. That’s the important thing. People are always asking when they can watch us play at home. It just gives them an opportunity.”

Not only that, but it also gave the Wildcats a chance to spread the word that they’re trying to raise money to make some improvements at Vandament.

“We’re in the middle of a fundraising opportunity to renovate our locker room,” Lozier said. “It’s a little dated with the old logos in a couple places and we’re trying to get rid of that. And just making it a better space, building a space that encourages them to come study as well. We want to build a study area for that.

“So we’re at $13,000 raised and we’re trying to get to $20,000. If we get to that $20,000 before June 30, I will shave my beard off.”

The current Wildcats easily took the first set 25-9, but the former players, who included a couple of the current players to fill out the team, put forth a good performance in the second set.

The alumni squad went on a 6-0 run at one point to take a 20-19 lead and later held a one-point advantage at 24-23 before the younger Wildcats won three straight points to take the set. The match ended with the current Wildcats completing the sweep with a 25-16 win.

It was just a short match, but Lozier liked what he saw from his team and also liked that the alumni put up a good fight, especially in the second set.

“I think that they’re doing some really good things,” he said. “We always have things to work on, but a lot of things that we addressed and that needed to get better from last weekend when we competed, we’ve shown an improvement. Passing was a big one and we passed significantly better today than we have in our last events.

“They made it competitive and that’s good. That’s how it usually works with older players. You’ve got to knock the rust off and then they get a little bit better and then they get fatigued a little bit and it starts to drop off.

“It was fun to have Maggie (Liebeck) and Lynzi (Svoboda) back in the gym and those other players as well.”

The loss didn’t matter to some of the alumni players, who just wanted to bond with their former teammates and play again on their old court.

“I have a lot of memories, especially going back into the locker room,” Svoboda said. “And seeing everyone there in that atmosphere was a lot of fun.”

Liebeck agreed and also noticed that her former team has gotten better since she and Svoboda were Wildcats last fall. Both will also graduate in a few weeks with Liebeck majoring in sports science and Svoboda in social work.

“I’m a little rusty, but it’s was OK,” Liebeck said. “We actually played with them three months ago. They’re showing a lot of improvements already in the short time they’ve been practicing, which is really awesome to see.”

Ryan Stieg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is rstieg@miningjournal.net