After competing on the road for the first two weeks of the season, Northwest volleyball will kick off the regular season in the irregular, impromptu venue of the Carl and Cheryl Hughes Fieldhouse.
Construction is ongoing in Bearcat Arena, so Northwest Athletics had to search for a way for volleyball to still play its home games on campus. Now, the No. 12 Bearcats will host their first home matchup against No. 7 Central Missouri Sept. 17.
“It will be different because we are in a different location,” Northwest coach Amy Woerth said. “But it feels amazing. … Having your own rhythm that you find at home brings a lot of comfort.”
Woerth and the Bearcats returned back this week after competing at the 2021 Capital Classic in Springfield, Missouri.
They ended the weekend 3-1, defeating Grand Valley State 3-0, capturing a three-set sweep against Purdue University-Northwest and beating Upper Iowa 3-1.
The Bearcats’ lone loss throughout the week, which was their first of the season, came courtesy of a 3-1 defeat via Michigan Tech.
“They just completely overpowered us, offensively,” Woerth said. “In the second set, we had 3 match points … so, knowing how to finish in those moments at a higher level, and when faced with adversity, just working on being a collective unit instead of breaking apart in those moments.”
“It felt good to come together as a team and push through having such good setters,” said redshirt freshman outside hitter Payton Kirchhoefer, who led the Bearcats in kills throughout the weekend (69).
Kirchhoefer's notable performance earned her a spot on the All-Tournament team at the Capital Classic.
She wasn’t the only redshirt freshman making an impact for Northwest; middle hitter Abby Brunssen led the Bearcats’ defensive efforts with a total of nine blocks during the four-match outing.
“We have great pin blockers that help set us up for success when it comes to blocking,” Brunssen said. “Getting a big block in a crucial moment brings a lot of energy and momentum to the game.”
The Bearcats believe the well-rounded competition they’ve faced in their first eight games has prepared them to compete in their first full season since the fall of 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They have gotten us where we need to be as far as preparation,” Woerth said. “Gave us a good taste of what we can do, offensively and defensively, as a team. … We had some good testing moments that we can take forward and put into play.”
Despite not being able to practice in the Hughes Fieldhouse until the week before their first home game, the Bearcats don’t want that to take away from their end goal, nor the culture that is being built within the program. However, it does bring excitement, not only for the players and coaching staff, but for Northwest itself.
After their matchup with the Jennies, the Bearcats will head to St. Joseph for a matchup with Missouri Western Sept. 19.
“We are all super excited to get into Hughes Fieldhouse and to be able to start the season off at home,” Kirchhoefer said.