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The Front Row with MARK NELKE November 4, 2010

| November 4, 2010 9:00 PM

Never fails.

There's two big events in Coeur d'Alene on Friday night - and naturally, both are at the same time, 7 p.m.

At Viking Stadium, Coeur d'Alene plays host to Lake City in the first round of the state 5A football playoffs. The winner advances to the semifinals next Friday, most likely vs. undefeated Capital of Boise at Bronco Stadium.

At Christianson Gym, the North Idaho College volleyball team will play for a trip to nationals at that time. The top-seeded Cardinals will play host to either fourth-seeded Snow or fifth-seeded Eastern Utah in a semifinal match in the Region 18 tournament. Since the top two teams advance to the NJCAA tournament, the winners of Friday's semifinals already punch their ticket to nationals, and play Saturday afternoon for seeding to nationals.

LAST WEEK's game between Lake City and Coeur d'Alene at Viking Stadium had a playoff feel to it, though it was already known there would be a rematch this week in the first round of the state playoffs.

Last week's game decided the 5A Inland Empire League title, and determined on which side of U.S. 95 the rematch would be played. Coeur d'Alene won, 19-14, on a last-minute touchdown. I've been to Lake City-Coeur d'Alene games at Viking Stadium which drew as many as 5,000 fans, with temporary seating set up behind the end zones.

Last Friday's crowd was decent, but nothing close to 5,000 - possibly because it rained much of the day, and possibly because some figured they'd wait for the rematch.

IT'S A safe bet that 5,000 won't try to crowd their way into Christianson Gym on Friday night - that would be three times the capacity of the gym. But if you're a volleyball junkie, Friday wouldn't be a bad day to camp out at NIC.

Southern Idaho and Colorado Northwestern play at 10 a.m., followed by Snow and Eastern Utah at 1 p.m. Salt Lake plays the CSI/Colorado Northwestern at 4 p.m. in the other semifinal for the other berth to nationals. NIC plays in the match after that, trying to make it to nationals for the fourth time in school history - all in the last seven years.

NIC is 4-0 vs. Snow this year, 2-0 vs. Eastern Utah. In the most recent poll, the four top seeds in the Region 18 tournament were all ranked in the top 18 in the NJCAA.

Home court has been good for NIC in the Region 18 tournament. Both times the Cardinals have hosted the tourney, in 2004 and 2006, they won to advance to nationals. Both years, NIC beat Snow to qualify for nationals. NIC last qualified for nationals in 2008, when the Cardinals won the Region 18 tournament in Salt Lake City.

NIC only played seven matches at home this season, but won all seven, including all five in Scenic West Athletic Conference play.

Mark Nelke is sports editor of The Press. He can be reached at 664-8176, Ext. 2019, or via e-mail at mnelke@cdapress.com.

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