MARQUETTE - Saginaw Valley State did everything it could to block the Northern Michigan University volleyball team's attempt to climb the GLIAC standings on Friday at Vandament Arena.
Instead, it was the Wildcats who blocked out the Cardinals in a four-set, 25-17, 24-26, 25-18, 27-25 victory to improve to 19-11 overall and 11-6 in the conference.
The win moved Northern into a tie for fifth place with Hillsdale after the Chargers lost in three sets to Ferris State. Ashland is in fourth after a four-set win over Wayne State. All five teams, plus Northwood, Grand Valley State and Findlay, have clinched GLIAC tournament berths.
Northern Michigan University’s Kalli Herron (17) and Sarah Hamilton (8) block a kill attempt by Saginaw Valley State’s Kate Czopek (4) in a GLIAC volleyball match held at Vandament Arena on Friday evening. (Journal photo by Zach Jay)
"This is really, really awesome for us," Wildcat junior Kalli Herron said. "This is our 19th win and we want to get 20 in our season before the tournament starts. This is a really, really good win for us and a good win to put us into the tournament now."
The Wildcats posted 16 team blocks, which was one short of the team-high of 17 against Southern Indiana in the Missouri S&T Classic on Sept. 8.
Blocking was a sore spot for the Wildcats last season, but this year it has become a strength with six matches, including Friday's, of double-digit team blocks.
In 2011-12, NMU only had three matches of double-digit team blocks, topping out at 12.
"Block has been a huge part of our season this year," Herron said. "Last year we kind of struggled with it. It hurt us a lot in the long run. Since we're doing it well this year, it's put us ahead. I think that's the reason we won the game tonight, was our blocking."
Senior Jasmine Calhoun led Northern with two solo blocks and nine block assists. The Cardinals (11-8 overall, 6-11 GLIAC) only had nine blocks total.
Six Wildcats registered blocks, including Herron with six block assists, junior Sarah Hamilton with two block solos and two block assists, junior setter Kellisha Harley with three block assists, freshman Lisa Studnicka with a block solo and block assist, and junior Lina Lopes with a block assist.
"Sarah and Jasmine are both our cornerstone of our blocking because they are in the middle," Yoder said, "but just to be able to have Kalli figure it out and to have Lisa and Lina figure it out on the other end is just very important and a good aspect to our team."
Studnicka led the Wildcat attack with a career-high 19 kills. Hamilton and Herron each had 12 while Lopes posted nine kills to go with three aces.
Harley totaled 44 assists and 20 digs. Lopes had 17 digs and senior libero Kalin Zimmerman had a team-high 24 digs.
The Wildcats close out the regular season at 4 p.m. today against Lake Superior State at Vandament Arena.
Northern topped the Lakers in four sets on Sept. 15 in Sault Ste. Marie. On Friday, the Lakers were swept in three sets by Michigan Tech.
"Lake State is one of those scrappy teams that we have to play well," Yoder said. "They can come out and catch fire pretty quick. No. 6 and No. 15 (Emily Snyder and Nikki Stratelak), their two left-side hitters, are pretty good and they have a really athletic middle in No. 4 (Gabrielle Olsen).
"We have to figure out how to slow them down and our best way to do that is to serve them aggressive and put up a formidable block."
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org