MARQUETTE, Mich. – After a return to the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Tournament, Northern Michigan University Volleyball heads into the 2018 season predicted to place third in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference North Division.
The Wildcats return two All-GLIAC honorees in junior Sarah Kuehn (Green Bay, Wis./De Pere) and sophomore Leticia Antunes (Florianopolis, Brazil/Colegio Ofelia Fonseca). Kuehn paced the league in kill percentage (.356) and blocks per set (1.36). Antunes finished her rookie season second on the team in digs (359) and third in aces (27), kills (281), and points per set (3.1).
Senior Rachel Braunschweig (Alamo, Calif./San Ramon Valley) returns to lead the defense after finishing fifth in the conference with 460 digs. Senior Autumn Monsma (Grand Haven, Mich.) also returns after leading the GLIAC with .38 aces per set. Senior Lynzi Svoboda (Minneapolis, Minn./Minneapolis Southwest) takes over as the team's setter and aims to control the team's offense.
Several returners are looking to compete for open starting roles. Senior Jessica Skonning (LaGrange, Ill./Lyons Township) saw time as a serving specialist last season and eyes a larger role on the team's front line. Senior Maggie Liebeck (Luxemburg, Wis./Luxemburg-Casco) returns after missing 2017 and is joined by junior Janie Torola (Calumet, Mich.), and sophomore Hailey Wickstrom (Calumet, Mich.).
On the backline, senior Kaila Mathews (Hoover, Ala.) joins juniors Gabriela Martinez (Vega Baja, Puerto Rico/Colegio Marista) and Cheyanna Pyka (Merrill, Wis.) looking for more time this season. Martinez and Pyka each filled time as serving specialists while Mathews gained experienced after transferring in last season.
The team will also feature new faces. Freshman Lizzy Stark (Mineapolis, Minn./Washburn) will add to the front line while Alli Yacko (Oak Lawn, Ill.) and Cierra Martinez (Arvada, Colo./Ralston Valley) seek an impact to the backline.
Abby Fortune (Appleton, Wis.), Elsie Zajicek (Brandon Valley, S.D.), Alyssa Milski (Oregon, Wis.) and Aubrey Simmons (Engadine, Mich.) will also add depth to the team and compete for playing time throughout the season.
Defending GLIAC Champion Ferris State University is once again predicted to win the North Division and the conference, receiving 11 first place votes and 61 total votes. Michigan Technological University received one first-place vote and 49 total votes. NMU is third with 43 votes. Northwood University and Saginaw Valley State University are tied for fourth with 26 votes and Lake Superior State University received 11 votes.
The Wildcats open the season August 24 at the Capital Classic, hosted by University of Illinois-Springfield. NMU hosts the Wildcat Open on August 31 and September 1 for the first matches in Vandament Arena.
The complete results of the poll are listed below.
1. Ferris State - 61 (11)
2. Michigan Tech - 49 (1)
3. Northern Michigan - 43
T4. Northwood - 26
T4. Saginaw Valley - 26
6. Lake Superior State - 11
1. Wayne State - 57 (7)
2. Grand Valley State - 52 (4)
3. Ashland - 40
4. Davenport - 30 (1)
5. Wisconsin-Parkside - 26
6. Purdue Northwest - 11