By Anvil Welch
Globe Sports Writer
The Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College volleyball team faces a monster of a test in the first round of the NJCAA Division II National Tournament on Thursday.
How about defending champion Cowley and its 57-match winning streak?
NEO (17-7) and No. 1 seed Cowley (35-0) are scheduled to clash at noon in the 16-team tourney at Owens Community College in Toledo, Ohio.
“Absolutely, this will be a great challenge,” NEO coach Eric Iverson said Tuesday during a phone interview. “Cowley is a big team. They have great net play.
“It (the Tigers’ winning streak) has to end at some point, right?” Iverson added with a laugh.
NEO is making its first appearance in the Division II Tournament. The Lady Norse competed in the Division I National Tournament under coaches Rick Karr and Mike Barlow in 2000 and 2001 at North Arkansas Community College in Harrison. They were fifth in 2000 and ninth in 2001.
NEO this season reached the nationals by winning District O at Lee’s Summit, Mo. It outlasted East Central of Union (Mo.) 25-18, 27-29, 23-25, 25-14, 15-8 in the final on Nov. 3. Earlier, NEO beat Missouri teams Wentworth (27-25, 25-15, 25-11) and, in the semifinals, Longview Metropolitan Community College (25-18, 25-23, 25-20).
Iverson, who’s assisted by Lee Johnson and Lydia Niemegeers, said NE0 has 10 healthy players with only Jessica Walker of Broken Arrow (Okla.) sidelined.
Probable starters include four from southwest Missouri — East Newton 6-foot-1 sophomore Katy Cooper, Stockton freshman Kaitlin Cramer, 5-10 Hollister sophomore Terra Dimetroff and Reeds Spring sophomore libero Shannon Powers.
Also, Iverson said, sophomore Karson Langel (Broken Arrow), veteran Ciara Wallin (Saskatchewan, Canada) and 6-0 sophomore Samantha Smith (Broken Arrow) are scheduled to start.
Completing the roster, all freshmen, are Shelby Frey (Gravette, Ark.) and Sooners Alyssa Brown (Stillwater) and Shalea Ford (Grove).
Iverson is in his 11th year as coach and has an overall record of 150-138.
“We’ve found a way to really dig in and play better in the really tough matches,” Iverson told Monty Franks in the Miami News-Record. “We’ve done really good about letting go of negative moments in matches and really locking in to the energy and enthusiasm that it takes to stay in the moment to play the next point.”