COLUMN: Volleyball future looking bright after a season to remember
More highs could be in the future after an up and down season for Central Michigan Volleyball.
This season ended with the Chippewas playing their best volleyball of the season, coming away with a Mid-American Conference championship and NCAA tournament appearance.
CMU earned the No. 6 seed in the MAC tournament. A shot at the title looked slim playing the top three seeds in the tournament.
Starting off by sweeping the No. 3 seed, rival Western Michigan and three-time defending MAC champions No. 2 Ohio was huge for the Chippewas.
They then found themselves against the No. 1 seed Northern Illinois and its dominating sophomore outside hitter Lauren Wicinski with the MAC title on the line.
Defense stepped up holding Wicinski to a .158 hitting percent and CMU won a dramatic five-game match earning its first ever MAC championship and NCAA tournament appearance.
Senior middle blocker Kaitlyn Schultz anchored the title run. She finished her career as the most decorated player in program history by adding a MAC title and tournament MVP to her four All-MAC first team honors. The former MAC Freshman of the Year was also the program’s 14th member of the 1,000 kill club.
The season came to an end in the first round of the NCAA tournament, losing to the eventual runner-up Illinois.
The Chippewas were swept as the Fighting Illini were just too much.
CMU had come a long way since losing the season opener to Iowa on Aug. 26.
Injuries during the season to Schultz, junior right-side hitter Jocelyn VerVelde and outside hitter Val DeWeerd kept the Chippewas on their heels.
Schultz had the best hitting percentage on the team (.407), and sixth best in the nation.
Schultz is leaving, along with fellow seniors like defensive specialist Kelsey Detweiler who didn’t have eye opening statistics, but her presence was felt on the floor and was vital to her team’s success. Setter Catherine Ludwig is also done, but CMU will recover and reload.
Freshman outside hitter and All-MAC freshman team honoree Kaitlyn McIntyre is back. She led the team in kills on the season, setting a new freshman single-season program record with 409.
Three sophomores will all be returning for their junior years. Sophomore setter Kelly Maxwell was the floor general for the offense leading the team with 1,314 assists. That putting her at No. 40 in the nation with 10.95 assists per game.
Maxwell’s classmate Jenna Coates was the leader on the defense recording 544 digs, the fourth most in program history in a single-season. Rounding out the impressive returning sophomores is middle blocker Danielle Gotham. She will help on the defensively after leading the team in total blocks (116) this year.
The team was young this year and with experience returning, the Chippewas have a great chance of repeating as MAC champions.
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