Northern Michigan cross country coach Jenny Ryan viewed the Lewis Conference Crossover Invitational Saturday in Chicago as another opportunity for her team to build confidence.

The Wildcats were already having a good start to their season. Placing second out of 35 schools on Sept. 26 in the Roy Griak Invitational vaulted Northern Michigan to ninth in the USTFCCCA Top 25.

“I am really excited how well things are going,” Ryan said Friday. “We have been slowly building the team up the last couple of years. The last two years we have come pretty close to making it to the national championships.”

Ryan and the Wildcats want this to be the year they get over the hump and compete in the NCAA Division II National Championship, which will be Nov. 21 in Joplin, Mo.

Ryan thought the course at the Lewis Conference Crossover was perfect for her team to run fast times. In previous meets, the Wildcats ran on either hilly courses or in wet conditions.

“The course is pretty flat,” Ryan said. “This one will help build their confidence with the speed of the course. Also, going against Grand Valley, which has been one of the top teams in the country for a lot of years, will give us a chance to see where we stand against them and give us some confidence going into conference and regional.”

Well, the Wildcats did well on Saturday, placing second out of 11 teams. Four of the Northern Michigan runners finished in the top 15, led by sophomore Kameron Burmeister, who took fifth with a time of 22:01.79.

Sophomore Vivian Hett was not far behind, clocking in at 22:23.71 to finish 10th. Senior Megan Edic finished 12th with a time of 22:31.48 and freshman Sophie McDonald placed with 15th with a time of 22:34.80.

“Last year we had those three freshmen, Kameron, Caroline and Vivian, who were in my top five and they have continued to improve and be solid,” Ryan said. “Sophie McDonald, who is just a freshman, I knew she would be right in there. Megan Edic, who is a senior, has been up there and has moved up her whole career.”

By being in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, Northern Michigan is seeing some of the best women cross country runners in the nation. The GLIAC conference meet on Oct. 24 in Detroit is almost like the national championship.

Grand Valley State, which had three of the top four runners and five of the top nine runners at the Lewis Conference Crossover, is the three-time NCAA Division II champions, and is currently ranked third in the country. Hillsdale, which is in the GLIAC, is the No. 1 ranked team in women’s cross country.

“It is hard,” Ryan admits. “If we were in a different conference, we could be conference champions. But this pushes us. Once we do make it to nationals, we are going to be one of the top teams in the country because we do have those teams that are so strong. They keep pushing us forward and making us better.”

Bounce-back win for No. 11 UCM

After a disheartening 3-2 loss at home to Missouri Western Friday evening, Central Missouri coach Flip Piontek was happy the Jennies returned to action the next night against Northwest Missouri State.

Piontek knew his team needed to play well to get a victory. Northwest came into the match 11-5 overall and 4-2 and tied with Central Missouri. With three ranked teams ahead of Central Missouri in the MIAA, the Jennies couldn’t afford another loss. In addition, Missouri Western, which is not ranked, is 14-4 overall and 6-1 and in second place in conference.

“I have been voting Missouri Western in the weekly poll because I think they are that good. Obviously, they rewarded my vote,” Piontek said. “Missouri Western played us very well last night. They won the match.

“The nice thing about volleyball is we get a chance to play the next day. By getting the chance, do you take advantage of that opportunity? I thought we did today.”

Central Missouri played near flawless Saturday evening, beating Northwest 25-16, 25-19, 25-19. The victory improved Central Missouri’s record to 17-3 overall and 5-2 in the MIAA.

It is the time of the season, Piontek said, when every match is important and has implications to making postseason.

“Getting a victory on the road after losing a match at home was big for us,” Piontek said. “There are going to be teams who will be ranked in the top 25 who will not make the postseason tournament. It happens every year.”

Getting ready for Pittsburg State

As well as Northwest Missouri State played Saturday in its 69-0 win over Lindenwood, Northwest defensive coordinator Rich Wright wasn’t going to give himself a full 24 hours to savor it.

“The moment I walk in here at 12 p.m. Sunday, we are going to put this away very quickly,” Wright said. “We are going to let the guys enjoy this tonight and tomorrow, but as coaches, when we walk in tomorrow, it is Pittsburg State week.”

Last year Pittsburg State handed Northwest its only regular season loss and, making it sting a little more, was the fact it was Northwest’s Homecoming game. The two teams shared the conference title and were the two teams to represent the MIAA in the NCAA Division II playoffs last season.

This year Northwest is 6-0 and tied for first with Emporia State. At 4-2, Pittsburg State is fighting for its playoff lives. It is the biggest home game of the season for Pittsburg. Kickoff is 2:30 p.m. and will be televised in Kansas and Missouri on the MIAA TV Network.

“When we come into meetings, it is going to be all business. We are going to the jungle,” Northwest senior quarterback Brady Bolles said.

Games to watch results

No. 13 Pittsburg State at No. 18 Emporia State: Emporia State senior quarterback Brent Wilson tossed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Kavaski Ervin with 2:06 left, giving the Hornets a 46-42, come-from-behind win over Pittsburg State. Wilson passed for 336 yards and ran for 108 yards. Emporia State improved to 6-0 and Pittsburg State fell to 4-2.

No. 16 Angelo State at No. 15 Texas A&M-Commerce: A blocked punt by Texas A&M-Commerce’s Davarus Shores was picked up by teammate Dionte Taylor, who scored a touchdown early in the third quarter turned out to be vital for the Lions. It gave them a 38-21 lead with 11:22 left in the third quarter. Angelo State fought back and scored 14 points in the fourth quarter. Texas-A&M-Commerce hung on for a 38-35 victory. Texas A&M-Commerce improved to 5-1 and Angelo State fell to 4-2.

Gannon at Mercyhurst: Gannon sophomore placekicker Karch Hollan booted a 30-yard, game winning field goal with 1:10 left, lifting the Golden Knights to a 16-13 victory and win the Niagara Cup. Gannon improved to 4-2 and Mercyhurst dropped to 3-3.

No. 21 Valdosta State at No. 2 West Georgia: For the first time in 17 years, West Georgia beat in-state rival Valdosta, winning 49-28. West Georgia completely dominated the second half, outscoring Valdosta State 24-7. Running back LaMarcus Franks rushed for 172 yards and even completed a 28-yard pass for a touchdown for West Georgia. Quarterback Dallas Dickey threw for 242 yards and three touchdowns.

Augustana at No. 1 Minnesota State-Mankato: Mankato junior quarterback Ricky Lloyd threw three touchdown passes, helping the Mavericks win their Homecoming game against Augustana. On defense, Mankato recorded eight sacks. Mankato improved to 6-0 and Augustana dropped to 4-2.