VCC, new coach debut with a ‘W’

by Tom Coombe
It didn’t take long - just one match to be exact - for the Vermilion Ironwomen to equal their win total from 2018.
The community college team made new head coach Nicki Kosik a winner in her Vermilion debut, as the Ironwomen stomped Northern Division rival Fond Du Lac in a lopsided sweep Wednesday night.
Sophomore Crystal Stignani had a whopping 18 aces in the 25-4, 25-7, 25-10 thrashing.
Vermilion made quick work of the visiting Thunder, taking care of business in less than an hour and serving notice that it could very well be a new era for Ironwomen volleyball.
The win was a milestone of sorts for an 11-member Vermilion squad that has been practicing since mid-August.
“It’s huge for our team because the girls have been working really hard for the last three weeks,” said Kosik. “Coming off the season they had last year they just wanted to improve. Our main goal is to take each game, one at a time and improve every day. Their work ethic and their team bonding, the way they have been pushing it’s been huge and a lot of fun. To come away with a win to start our season has been pretty awesome.”
Vermilion was dominant against the Thunder with a lineup that boasts some experience.
Stignani, an outside hitter, is one of five VCC returnees along with fellow outside hitter Lauren Huchel, blockers Elizabeth Hintze and Alexis Hughes and hitter Terri Sutton.
The Ironwomen have also gained a boost from the presence of Keena Alik, a setter from Texas.
“We just got Keena into the mix,” said Kosik. “She’s another setter, and she brings a whole new level to our team.”
A couple of familiar faces, former Ely Timberwolf and current VCC softball standout Shawna Butler, as well as Northeast Range graduate Melissa Nelmark, have joined the Ironwomen.
Also new to the squad are Jennifer Sandberg, Faith Benson and Molly Frandsen.
In addition to Wednesday’s win, VCC has taken part in a pair of preseason scrimmages and the results have been promising.
“Just from what we have seen, the improvements, the way that we work, i think we can match up well with a lot of schools that we play,” said Kosik. “I don’t think it will be a rollover for anybody this year, and that’s what we are excited about.”
Kosik, who will also serve as athletic director and women’s basketball coach at Vermilion, brings a wealth of volleyball experience to the program, including junior college action as a player and 19 years as a high school coach in California.
After a road match at Hibbing Wednesday, the Ironwomen return to the friendly confines of their own gymnasium for a weekend homestand Sept. 13-14.