While No. 10 Northwest volleyball was 10 hours away from home, the Bearcats were seemingly right at home in the Britkare Lady Buff Classic. The Bearcats went 4-0 for the tournament, only dropping one set.
“We’re setting at a high percentage,” coach Amy Woerth said. “You know, our first ball touch was taken care of, and we’re pretty scrappy on defense. So I think the combination of those three things helped us become a hard team to defeat.”
The Bearcats started the weekend with a bang on Aug. 26, as they beat Saint Mary’s (0-4) 3-0, outscoring the Rattlers 56-31 in the match.
The dominance continued against Adams State (1-3) as Northwest swept the Grizzlies. Northwest had to wait until the next morning to continue its hot start, but the Bearcats got another sweep against UC Colorado Springs (2-3).
The last match of the weekend was a heavyweight bout against the host, No 12. West Texas A&M (3-1).Northwest started the match hot with a 1-0 lead that eventually led to a 25-16 win in the first set. The Buffs woke up after that, losing the second set by only 3 points, 22-25.
The third set was what a game between two top teams would normally look like, neither team was willing to give an inch. Due to a 3-0 scoring run, the Buffs came out on top in the third set 29-27.
West Texas A&M’s win snapped the 11-set win streak the Bearcats had.
The fourth set was another back-and-forth battle, with both teams doing what they could to prove their preseason rankings. This set ended with the ’Cats on top 25-22, giving the Northwest a 4-0 record for the tournament and the tournament title.
Woerth was happy to see the team’s hard work and high-level play result in winning four matches, including against a ranked team.
“I think their atmosphere is really neat down there,” Woerth said. “They’ve got, you know, a volleyball gym of their own and got a lot of passionate fans, and so it was fun to walk in there and take something away from them.”
The successful weekend by Northwest helped three players earn all-tournament team honors. The three Bearcats receiving honors were junior right side Jaden Ferguson, sophomore outside hitter Payton Kirchhoefer and junior setter Alyssa Rezac.
Kirchoefer was also selected as the tournament MVP.
Rezac was later recognized as the MIAA setter of the week on Aug. 29.
“It is a big honor to be named MVP,” Kirchhoefer said. “I couldn’t be where I am without the amazing teammates and coaches that I have and practice with every day. Being named MVP brings confidence with it, and I know that my teammates trust me to be reliable at all times.”
“I have to credit the team for that,” Rezac said. “Passers and defense did a good job of getting me high balls, and hitters put the ball away at a high level. They did a good job of making me look good.”
Those aren’t the only accolades Northwest received after a 4-0 weekend. Northwest is ranked No. 2 in the Week 1 Volleyblog rankings and No. 10 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Week 1 Top-25.
Next for the ’Cats is another tournament.
Northwest will play in the Premier Challenge in Denver, Colorado Sept. 2-3. Despite playing in tournaments for two straight weeks, both with ranked opponents, the ’Cats aren’t intimidated.
“Continue to focus on our side of the net and how we can get better this week,” Woerth said. “How can we figure out more about ourselves and what makes us go. Continue to make some of our weaknesses more of a strength for us, but just continue to get better every day.”
The first opponent in the Premier Challenge is the No. 16 Angelo State Rams (3-1). Angelo State is also ranked No. 23 in the Volleyblog Week 1 rankings.
The Rams and Bearcats have never played before so this match continues the trend of new opponents for the ’Cats this season.
After Angelo State, Northwest will be in for another showdown against No. 4 MSU Denver (4-0). The Roadrunners are also ranked No. 1 in the Volleyblog Week 1 rankings.
A contest with this much magnitude could be the match of the week in Division II volleyball. Northwest will look to win this game, just like it did against the Buffs last week.
“I feel like we are pretty well prepared to face good competition every weekend by being in the MIAA,” Rezac said. “There are a lot of good teams, and you have to play good every weekend to compete so I feel like it is something we’re used to.”