Marquette, Mich. (WJMN) – When Mark Rosen arrived at Northern Michigan in 1994 he inherited a roster that was dealing with a lot of turnover from the championship team the year prior.
He brought back just one returning starter and seven freshmen who had yet to log any game time experience.
“You know, there were some people. Pauline Schuette and Emily Carrick and Liu Jun who nobody knew about. She’s this Chinese center that barely spoke English at that point. She hasn’t set yet because but with Stacy Metro there, there wasn’t really much room to set. I think she’s pretty good. So, we get up there and as we started training I started to realize that I think we had a pretty good group,” said Rosen.
The Wildcats would start slow but as the games went on their confidence grew. The cats won their final 16 games and took that momentum all the way back to the national championship game.
There they would meet Cal-Bakersfield. The team Rosen had just left four months prior to take the job at Northern.
The game would be played at Bakersfield in front of a hostile crowd that Rosen knew all too well.
“They tore threw us in the first game. It was a beatdown. And I’m like I don’t think this is going to happen,” said Rosen.
The Cats would fall behind again in the second set, but thanks to a key substitution, NMU would find the spark they needed.
“We put a freshman in who hadn’t really played much all year. I remember as we subbed her in, I went down to the end of the bench and said, ‘Jenny, are you ready to go in?’ She kind of looked at me like deer in the headlights, ‘Sure,’ she said. You know, Jenny went in and she just sure’d things up. She’s this freshman, she had nothing to lose. She’s swinging for the moon and she’s playing great and she’s passing well and all of a sudden, Jun starts playing at a whole nother level. Jun took her game up and everybody just started to come along. Jennie Long was such a great leader on that team. We come back to win that second set after being down 7/8-4.”
After winning set 3, NMU would get up big in the fourth set setting up national championship point.
“Then there was a player on that Bakersfield team that ended up being the National Player of the Year, that year actually. Kristy Winniky, she started going off. You know, and shes started just getting kills. I remember it was, you know, 14-8,14-9, 14-10, 14-11. I remember vividly all the photographers were around our bench to capture our national championship point. I remember thinking to myself, ‘I hope they don’t leave.’ If they leave that means we’re losing,” said Rosen.
The Cats would fend off Bakersfield capturing their second straight D-2 national championship on the same court he coached on the season prior.
“You would think that the place was going to erupt. Like, it was going to be loud but it was dead quiet,” said Rosen.
Rosen had reached his goal of coaching a team to a championship. Something he set out to do when he lost in the title game the year prior.
But it wouldn’t be with Bakersfield, but with Northern Michigan.
“That was such a great team. Jun was such a phenomenal player for us and was such a great inspiration for me as a coach. Just having the chance to coach her for three years. Pauline Schuette was so good. Jennie Long was an amazing leader. She was kind of the glue that held that team together the year before but didn’t get a lot of accolades. She didn’t get a lot of attention because they were a lot of other players that got all the hype. That kid was she was a volleyball player and she was a tough ass. She was not going to be denied. And so she really was the one who made that team go. Just awesome personalities and awesome people to be able to pull that off,” concluded Rosen.