MARYVILLE, Mo. — The No. 10-ranked Northwest volleyball team (11-1 overall, 4-0 MIAA) returns home this weekend to battle league competitors Nebraska-Kearney and Fort Hays State.

For the first time in program history, the Bearcats earned a top 10 ranking in this week’s American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 25 poll.

“We always say be 1% better every day and the environment in our practice, I think, has led to this,” eighth-year head coach Amy Woerth said.

Woerth was named the 2018 MIAA Coach of the Year, after the Bearcats set a program record with 14 MIAA wins in 2018. Woerth added the ranking is not what she purposefully set out to accomplish.

“It’s just how can we be the best we can be, and that’s how I was as a player, student-athlete,” Woerth said. “From that standpoint, that’s what I’m proud of, that we found the formula that we’re using: being ourselves and being the best that we can be and this is the result of it.”

“It’s nice to have that acknowledgment, but it really doesn’t change a lot of what we’re doing as a team. We’re just focused on doing our systems, getting 1% better each day,” junior Maddy Ahrens said.

Northwest is 4-0 in matches against ranked opponents, 4-0 in three-set matches, and 3-1 in five-set matches this season.

“Just hats off to our girls, they’re just really coachable. We put a game plan in front of them and they’re just really executing at the highest level they can. We have some depth that we’ve been able to use from the standpoint that we can’t expect every single night for everyone to be on.”

Ahrens earned her third MIAA specialist of the week honor for her play in wins over Pittsburg State and Missouri Southern.

Ahrens ranks No. 2 in the MIAA in assists per set with 10.88.

“As a setter you rely on your teammates to do their job well so you could do your job well. I’m just, like, super thankful and proud of our passing,” Ahrens said.

The Bearcats hosts Fort Hays State on Friday at 6 p.m and will then take on No. 4-ranked Nebraska-Kearney on Saturday in a battle of two top-10 foes at 3 p.m.

“Fort Hays is an emerging team with a new coach, so we’re going to have to pay attention to them when it comes to just knowing their style and putting their team together this year,” Woerth said.

The Lopers are 13-0 overall and 4-0 in MIAA action, while The Tigers are 5-7 overall and 2-2 in league play.

Northwest and Nebraska-Kearney are tied atop the MIAA standings with 4-0 league records.

Woerth added the team appreciated returning to their home court this weekend.

“Normalcy is always what you want. That’s what you’re fighting for on the road, trying to make it as normal as possible, go through the same routine, and so being able to already have that being at home is going to be helpful,” Woerth said.

The Bearcats had 22 wins last season, earning their 15th 20-win campaign in program history. Now, the team battles for back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since 1999.

“We’re so excited to be home,” Ahrens said. “Our mindset is to just go in, keep our focus, but also just enjoy the moment and enjoy playing in Bearcat Arena.”

Micaela Dea can be reached

at micaela.dea@newspressnow.com.

Follow her on Twitter: @NPNowDea

Micaela Dea is a sports reporter for News-Press NOW. She graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Growing up in San Diego, Micaela loves to travel, meet new people, and tell stories. Have a story idea? Don't hesitate to email!