Niles sweeps Buchanan to win BCS Red Division championship

BUCHANAN — The record will show that the Niles volleyball team played one season in the BCS Athletic Conference.

That record will also reflect that the Vikings (14-8) were the BCS Red Division champions for the 2020 season. Niles will head to the Wolverine Conference next year. Before it does, the Vikings will host the BCS Athletic Conference Tournament on Oct. 24.

Niles went 6-0 this season to win the league championship. The Vikings capped off their undefeated Red Division schedule with a 3-0 victory over host Buchanan Wednesday night. Niles swept the Bucks 25-17, 25-20 and 27-25.

“It’s all about goals for this team,” said Niles coach Jenny Nate. “They practice each day with a total focus on specific goals. They do the same thing during a match, and their goal for the match tonight was to sweep Buchanan and capture the regular-season conference title.”

Nate and her team knew that the Bucks were going to give them all they wanted.

“We knew going into tonight that Buchanan is a good team with some excellent hitters,” she said. “So, we had to play very aggressive defensively and put up some big blocks early on in order to make them change up their offense. And offensively, we had to have all of our players scoring. This team works incredibly hard, so they had confidence coming in tonight based on the work that they put in each day, and that confidence transferred into a three-set sweep.”

The Bucks may be big upfront, but Niles is no slouch in its own right with the likes of Marika Ruppart, Jillian Bruckner, Amara Palmer and Laur Golubski. Ruppart, Bruckner and Golubski all had seven kills against Buchanan, while Palmer finished with six kills.

That unit also combined for 12 blocks.

Niles has used a combination of talent and emotion to improve each and every week.

“Once again, our energy as a team contributes to every single win, and you know you have a great team and teammates when you get warned that we have to be a little calmer with our cheering on the bench,” Nate said.

Another key to success for the Vikings is the fact that despite leaving the SMAC for the BCS this season, Nate continued to schedule tough non-conference opponents.

“I am so proud of our conference sweep, and I know our girls are celebrating tonight, but they will also be in bed early because we turn around and have to get back to work tomorrow as we head off to face No. 8-ranked Hamilton, No. 4-ranked North Muskegon, and Division 1 powerhouse Mattawan,” she said.

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