Norse volleyball looks forward to tournament play

The Northern Kentucky University volleyball team finished their season on a five-game winning streak, resulting in the program’s 18th consecutive 20-win season.

Although there were some ups and downs for the Norse, they seem to be hitting their stride at the right time.

Finishing the season with a 20-12 record overall and a 10-4 record in the Great Lakes Valley Conference, the Norse were led in kills by sophomore middle/outside hitter Shelby Buschur with 381, followed by junior outside hitter Noelle Peterson with 310. Sophomore setter Jenna Schreiver led the team and the GLVC in assists per set, averaging 10.67.

On the defensive side, NKU was led in digs by sophomore defensive specialist Kylee Tarantino, who had 412 this season.

“It was an up and down season,” Peterson said.

The Norse got off to a rough start, beginning the year on the road at the University of Tampa Tournament. They went 0-4 in the tournament against good competition as all the teams they played against were ranked nationally in the Top 25 Division II poll at the time.

The Norse fought back to get their record even at 6-6 and they were hit hard with another setback. Coach Carlos Chia was suspended for the rest of the season. Liz Holmes, assistant coach since 2008 and NKU’s all-time career leader in kills, was announced as the interim head coach for the remainder of the season on Sept. 20.

“We adjusted to the situation and it brought us together as a team,” said sophomore setter Kelly Morrissey.

After the coaching change, NKU finished the season going 14-6 including 9-3 in GLVC play.

“We started to play really aggressive as a team and we played with intensity,” Holmes said.

With the regular season over, NKU will now prepare for the GLVC Tournament that will be held Nov. 12-14 in Romeoville, Ill., the home of Lewis, who earned the honors of hosting the tournament by finishing in first place in the conference. The tournament winner receives an automatic berth in the NCAA Division II Championship.

NKU will match up against the University of Missouri-St. Louis in the first round of the tournament. The Norse are the number four seed while the Tritons are the number five seed. The two teams matched up against each just recently on Nov. 5. The match saw the Norse prevail in a five-set thriller over the Tritons who were at the time ranked 21st nationally in the NCAA Division II poll.

“All the teams will be good and everybody starts with a 0-0 record,” Holmes said. “If we are on our game, there will be good things to come.”

The Norse will be trying to advance to the Midwest Regional Nov. 18-21. The top eight teams in the poll will earn berths in the NCAA Division II Tournament next month. NKU was ranked seventh in the last poll so they will try to secure a spot into the regional.

Story by John Minor