IRONWOOD — Northland International University swept the Lindquist Center clean on Tuesday night by defeating Gogebic Community College’s Lady Samson volleyball team 25-13, 25-13, 26-24.
The Lady Pioneers played efficiently and NIU coach David Herron said it was because his team had played more matches than GCC.
“We’ve had five matches, so we’re used to the competition,” Heron said. “Aaron’s (Bender) a good coach and he’ll get them going. We served well, attacked the ball and converted well. We had 4 to 5 point runs a couple times. We have 3 to 4 hitters that can put the ball away and we were able to attack the ball in more than one spot. We spread the offense around. We played pretty well together. If kids don’t play together in volleyball, the play turns bad.”
Bender has 11 Lady Samson volleyball players and 10 are freshmen. Legendary Marquette basketball coach, Al McGuire, used to say that the best thing about freshmen is that they become sophomores. It was not a cut on freshman, but his way of saying that it takes freshmen time to adapt to college athletics and they can have some unpredictable days as they learn the ropes.
Bender might agree with McQuire.
“We’re in the midst of a roller-coaster start this year,” he said. “Our first game we were jittery. Saturday we played well and today we had way too many unforced errors and we’re not passing the ball. If the passing gets going, we’ll be OK.
“The key components of our team are freshmen and many have new teammates, new positions and the game is faster. There’s moments we get it and then we forget our style of play. But they will have opportunities coming ahead.”
Game one was tied at 3-3, but the Lady Pioneers reeled off 11 of the next 13 points to take a commanding 14-5 lead. GCC’s Korrie Trier stopped the charge with a tip at the net and Krista Svoboda’s kill brought Gogebic to within 17-11.
After a net violation gave NIU a 19-13 advantage, Hanna Cole served out the game with six straight points that included two aces.
In game two, GCC ‘s Kylea Hoff made a nice tip on the sideline and blasted a kill off the hands of an NIU player to narrow the Lady Pioneer’s lead to 8-5.
But once again, NIU had a nine-point surge and opened up a 17-6 cushion. Momentum kept rolling NIU’s way and it went on to close out the set at 25-13.
It looked like a quick night of volleyball after the third set started with four consecutive serving points by Marissa Hawley. NIU ran out to a 7-2 lead until Gogebic’s Zoey McGeshick and Trier nailed back-to-back kills.
But the Lady Pioneers continued their offensive assault until it was 14-4.
It was then the Lady Samsons decided to make a game out of it.
“We made some decent adjustments and made a fight out of the third game,” Bender said. “When we have an opportunity to win, we have to take it.”
It started when Emily Kleinsteiber made a kill and GCC won a nice point to whittle the lead down to 16-7. After a good block at the net by the Lady Samsons, NIU airmailed a shot long and Holt had a hard kill to make it 17-10.
With Svoboda serving, the Lady Pioneers hit two poor comeback shots and Holt’s block at the net closed the gap to 17-13.
Once again, NIU reeled off four straight points to go up 21-14. McGeshick slammed a kill and an excellent block and along with some misguided shots by NIU, the score was tied at 21-21 when Brittany Suomumaki made a kill.
The teams traded points with Brittni Kisul adding a kill, but the Lady Pioneers won the set and match when Hanna Cole served a bullet that went for an ace.
Kisul led the Lady Samsons with six kills and two aces, while Holt added five kills and two and one-half blocks. Trier nailed three kills along with two aces and 11 digs and Bender said she played “real well” defensively. Setter Krista Svoboda dished out 16 assists, including nine in the third set.
Tiffany Kercher and Liz Humberg both had seven kills for the Lady Pioneers. Kercher had six digs and Humberg came up with eight digs and three assists.
Bender said he remains optimistic about this year’s Lady Samson team despite the fact they are now 0-3.
“We are making fundamental mistakes that are not that bad,” Bender said. “Last year, we started 0-4 and wound up having a real good season. So the season isn’t over. But we need to find a way to win.”
Gogebic plays in the UW-Marinette Tourney Saturday.