DII Women's Notebook: UNK and Bloomsburg are fast risers while GVSU gets back on track
UNK Volleyball off to fast start
The University of Nebraska-Kearney continues its climb up the national rankings after yet another tournament victory this past weekend. Last week, the Lopers jumped from No. 13 to No. 7 after going a combined 12-1 in the Oredigger Volleyball Classic in Golden, Colorado. This week, after a clean 12-0 sweep over four matches in the New Victorian Inn & Suites/Runza Fall Classic, they find themselves at No. 5 in this week’s AVCA Coaches Poll.
“We are very pleased with the approach our team has taken during the early season,” head coach Rick Squiers — now in his 18th season at the helm of the Lopers — said. “They are a committed group, so achieving some success on the scoreboard has been a nice confidence booster.”
Squiers is no stranger to winning. He reeled off 536 wins as head coach of the Lopers, and 742 wins in his illustrious and decorated 23 year collegiate career. Nor are his UNK players, as his teams have reached the NCAA tournament is each of his 17 years at the helm of the Lopers. Now, the focus is on bring that National Championship, and this season’s hot start is a step in the right direction.
This past weekend’s tourney sweep came on UNK’s home floor at the Health and Sports Center. Winning, and winning in bunches, is something in which these Lopers have become accustomed on their home court. The four wins extended their home winning streak to 22 consecutive games.
“We absolutely love playing in the confines of the Health and Sports Center,” Squiers said. “It is one of the best home court environments in all of college volleyball. It is also fan-friendly in that the spectators are very close to the action. This allows them to have an impact on the game. Nebraskans love their volleyball.”
Much like last season, the Lopers entered the season with very little upperclassmen on the roster. Playing last season with so much youth may have prepared them for their fast start this season. Despite being young in age, they are beyond their years in the valuable experience gained from 2015.
“We actually returned a great deal more experience on this year’s squad,” Squiers said. “Despite a large percentage of underclassmen, our expectations were to be a deeper and more versatile team this year. A number of our sophomores were starters as freshmen, plus our three upperclassmen are all very experienced players and great leaders.”
The lone senior on the team is Annie Wolfe. Wolfe is a 2015 All American who returns to lead this squad with a long list of accolades throughout her four year career. She is currently first or second in nearly every team statistical category (ranking second in kills and assists and first in points), but it is her veteran leadership that has been invaluable to the team.
“Annie sets a great example with her work ethic and selfless approach to the game,” Squiers said. “In addition to being perhaps our most reliable player, she takes the time to help younger players grow.”
The Lopers head to the Northeast this coming week, first with a stop at Southern New Hampshire before heading to Massachusetts for the Merrimack College Invitational. You can be sure that the Lopers have Sept. 20 marked on their calendars, when they return home to open MIAA play against Fort Hays State.
“The MIAA is clearly one of the premier volleyball leagues in NCAA DII,” Squiers said. “There are no easy victories, so it truly is a competitive grind. I think our players enjoy playing in big matches, and they will get plenty of opportunities to do just that.”
For Squiers, Wolfe and his young Lopers, the goal is always the same and that is to return to the postseason. The tenure of Wolfe’s career has seen the same ending for the past three seasons, as UNK has struggled to get past the first round.
“I think last season’s ending will serve as a motivator for the returning players,” Squiers said. “But just qualifying for the NCAA Central Region field is a daunting task considering two teams in the top 10 did not get in last year. IF we are fortunate enough to be playing in December, we would love to advance in the tournament.”
WSOC: GVSU back in the groove
The three-time defending National Champion Grand Valley State women’s soccer team came into the season ranked No. 1 in the country. A double-overtime tie, paired with the hot start of Columbus State saw the Lakers drop to No. 2 in the country. The tie seems to have fueled the Lakers, as they got back on track in a big way this past weekend.
After starting the season on the West Coast, they took their talents on a swing through Minnesota. The Lakers opened their weekend with an impressive 8-0 triumph at St. Cloud behind a program record-tying performance from senior Jayma Martin. Martin — who earned NCAA All-Tournament Team honors in last season’s championship run — scored four goals on just five shots, while assisting on another, scoring nine points, tying the GVSU all-time mark.
Sunday the Lakers traveled to No. 18 Minnesota State-Mankato and once again left victorious. Two-time NSCAA National Player of the Year Marti Corby assisted on the opening goal of the game and scored the final exclamation point on the big 4-1 victory over a top 20 foe.
"We really challenged our team after last Sunday in regards to the mental approach and work ethic, and they really responded with the way they played Friday and today”, head coach Jeff Hosler told GVSU athletics. "Today was the first day where everyone stepped up and won their physical battles across the board. Mackenzie Fox in particular was great at providing us the physical presence we needed in this game."
This weekend they finally return to their home state of Michigan to open their home season against two non-conference opponents before GLIAC play opens on September 23. Saginaw Valley State first comes to Allendale on Friday followed by Ohio Dominican on Sunday.
Field Hockey: Bloomsburg on the rise, up to No. 3 in recent poll
The Bloomsburg Huskies began the season as the No. 8 team in the country. All they have done since then is take down one ranked team after the other.
Senior forward Sam Peters got the season started off right, recording a hat trick and scoring the first three Huskies goals of the season en route to the upset of then No. 7 Adelphi by a score of 5-1. They continued their upset ways, taking down the reigning National Champion and No. 1 ranked East Stroudsburg in their home opener, behind an impressive 3-0 shutout.
The Warriors and Huskies played to a zero-zero draw to end the first half of play, but East Stroudsburg had no answer for Bloomsburg’s balanced attack in the second half. Three different Huskies scored, highlighted by freshman Ali McKay’s first career goal en route to senior keeper Lindsey Cassel’s first shutout of the season.
Several days later, Cassel posted her second consecutive shutout of the young season as McKay remained hot, providing all of the offense, scoring both goals in the Huskies' 2-0 victory at Bellarmine. Though the senior laden roster is loaded with experience, McKay is quickly making her presence felt and quickly making a statement for top freshman recognition.
Cassel would post yet another shutout as the Huskies downed Queens University of Charlotte on Sunday 4-0. The 2015 Second Team All American is now second in the nation with a .923 save percentage as the red hot Huskies have skyrocketed to No. 3 in the nation.