NMU volleyball: Yoder expects perfection at Vandament Arena, starting with Wildcat Open

MARQUETTE – After opening the regular season on the Gulf Coast in Pensacola, Fla., the Northern Michigan University volleyball team returns to the south shores of Lake Superior this weekend to host the Superior Oasis Wildcat Open at Vandament Arena in Marquette.

The Wildcats, who received three points in this week’s AVCA NCAA Division II top 25 poll, enter the six-school home tournament with a 2-2 overall record from the West Florida Invite after beating Florida Tech and Southern Indiana, but losing five-set matches to Missouri Science and Technology and No. 17 West Florida.

NMU head coach Dominic Yoder said finishing .500 is a good recipe for success on the road, but not at home. The ‘Cats head coach expects nothing but perfection at Vandament Arena this season, starting with the Wildcat Open.

“We had a good showing,” Yoder said about the West Florida Invite. “We impressed on somebody we’re capable of being in the top 20, now we just have to win matches.”

“This weekend is an opportunity for us to start winning more matches, especially being at home.

“Our expectation is to win at home. Anytime we go into a year, we want to go undefeated at home and at least split on the road to give us an opportunity to be in the national rankings and high in our conference.”

Northern tips off the tourney at 9 a.m. Friday against Bemidji State (2-2) before closing the day’s action against Minnesota-Crookston (3-1) at 7 p.m.

On Saturday, the Wildcats play Quincy (2-2) at 11 a.m. and wrap up against U.P. and GLIAC rival Lake Superior State (0-0) in a non-conference match at 7 p.m.

Michigan Tech (1-3) will also participate in the tournament and are considered co-hosts. The Huskies don’t play the ‘Cats, but face Quincy (11 a.m.) and LSSU (5 p.m.) on Friday. On Saturday, Tech plays BSU (9 a.m.) and Crookston (1 p.m.)

Yoder said Crookston has challenged the Wildcats in the past and should do so again this weekend. Meanwhile, Bemidji is a foe NMU hasn’t seem for sometime while LSSU and Quincy have new head coaches this season.

“Crookston has traditionally been pretty intense against us,” Yoder said.

“Crookston gave us fits last year. They took us to four down at Ferris (State) opening weekend so we’re expecting the same from them.”

Yoder said it took the team a few days this week to recover from the flights to and from the Florida Panhandle, but the experience was a good one because it taught the team what postseason travel could be like.

The Wildcats returned to a more aggressive practice on Wednesday, Yoder said.

“It’s good to see what they are experiencing now so we can counter that later in the season,” Yoder said.

Seniors Lina Lopes and Kalli Herron were both named to the all-tournament team in Pensacola with Lopes totaling a team-high 59 kills. Lopes’ 66 digs were second on the team to sophomore libero Alex Berger, who Yoder said also had a strong tournament in her first regular season action after missing most of last season with a back injury.

“Lina offensively performed well,” Yoder said. “Defensively she was a mainstay. I’m really happy with how Lina played.

“(Berger) was very consistent passing and when delivering a second ball when (setter) Kellisha (Harley) was digging volleyballs.”

Herron, playing the left side, topped Lopes in aces, 9-6, while recording 43 kills, eight blocks and 13 digs.

Herron played as a middle hitter last year for NMU and Yoder said he may move her back there this weekend during the tournament.

“Kalli didn’t have a great tournament, but had a good tournament,” Yoder said. “She played consistent. We moved her back to the middle this week to see how she’s going to perform this weekend.”