September 9, 2011

Sweep North Platte during 70th birthday celebration
By Jonathan Seib Journal-Advocate sports reporter

STERLING -- It was the 70th birthday of Northeastern Junior College and the Plainswomen's volleyball team made sure that they showed up with their present: a sweep of the Lady Knights from North Platte, Neb., on Thursday night in the Bank of Colorado Events Center.

The Plainswomen won, 25-21, 25-21, and 25-17.

"It's always a big win and it's nice to have that first win in that home opener. We have a young group so you never know how they are going to respond. But they reacted well and produced and had a good night," said Plainswomen head coach Amber Girdler.

From the beginning it was clear that the Plainswomen's attack was on it. Despite some hitting errors throughout the night, the outsides
were rolling. MacKenzie Krause, a freshman from Johnstown, and Mayara Prestes from Porto Alegre, Brazil, got up on it and had 13 kills apiece.

That is in spite of the fact that the North Platte defense is solid.

"North Platte is always a fun team to play. They have a good defense and do a good job digging it out. That requires your hitters to mix it up," commented Girdler.

And mix it up they did, with shots coming from every side, including a handful of back row kills by Krause and a memorable streak by Prestes in the final set where she scored three straight points on tip kills to put the Plainswomen on the match point.

Obviously, any offense is only as good as their setter. It may not have been Mandi Velasquez's night serving, but she racked up 29 assists.

The NJC defense stepped up as well. With Kirsten Schumacher, libero from Sterling, leading the way in the back row and Carolina Berger dominating the middle with a total of three stuff blocks, the Plainswomen shut it down.

Berger contributed on the offense with eight kills as well while right side Nikkik Schmidt, from Merino, had four kills. The night was not without its blemishes. Most of those came in the serving game. The Plainswomen gave away 17 points in service errors. Girdler pointed out that is the area that needs the most work. Morgan Woodruffs did put some things together there, coming up with four aces in the contest.

The good news is that the Plainswomen have a full week of practice before they face Iowa Western at 7 p.m. in their second home game of the season.

Between the second and third sets, a four-tier cake marking the 70th birthday of the college was wheeled out and the crowd sang the "Happy Birthday." The cake was served in the lobby afterwards.

Kills

Krause, 13; Prestes, 13; Berger, 8; Schmidt, 4; Woodruff, 2; Vandenbark, 1

Stuff blocks

Berger, 3; Prestes, 2; Woodruff, 1; Krause, 1; Velasquez, 1; Vandenbark, 1

Assists

Velasquez, 26

Aces

Woodruff, 4; Schumacher, 3; Velasquez, 1; Schmidt, 1

Digs

Krause, 13; Prestes, 11; Schumacher, 8; Schmidt, 6; Velasquez, 5; Monheiser, 1; Ruff, 1