COLUMN: Volleyball needs to wake up for conference play
They’ve won the matches they should have but haven’t won a match they could have.
That is how Central Michigan women’s volleyball head coach Erik Olson thinks of his team after going 6-5 in the non-conference portion of its schedule.
The Chippewas have beaten every team that, on paper, they should (UW-Green Bay, Drake, UMBC, Oakland, Campbell and Western Carolina), but when it comes to the teams that look to be stronger, they’ve come up just short.
“My thing is, when is this team going to wake up and say ‘hey, we’re really good,” Olson said. “We can dictate every match we step into and take the win.”
That being said, the non-conference schedule is behind them, and it’s time for CMU to make a run at a Mid-American Conference regular season title.
Coming into the season, the Chippewas were picked to finish third in the MAC West, but given the quality opponents they have faced and how they’ve looked for most of the non-conference schedule, Olson isn’t weary to put his team on top.
“I believe (the teams to beat in the MAC) are us, Ohio and Western (Michigan),” Olson said. “Ohio has an easier schedule than us, because they play the (MAC) East twice and the (MAC) West once, and the West will create problems for each other.”
That is the challenge for CMU: can they overcome a strong division and hold off the Bobcats who, coming into the season, looked to be the clear-cut favorites in a weak division?
That’s where the turn around Olson was talking about needs to come. Can the Chippewas beat the teams they should in the MAC and then also take down the Broncos and Ball State – two teams picked ahead of them in the preseason?
“It’s going to come down to which team gets hot at the right time,” Olson said.
Last season, the Chippewas got hot and took a turn in program history by winning its first MAC Tournament championship. This season, they are looking for a regular season title, but they have to answer Olson’s question first.
When will this team make a turn in the season and realize its potential?
That answer could come as soon as Friday when MAC play begins at McGuirk Arena against defending regular season champion Northern Illinois, followed by a potential season-changing match with WMU on Saturday.
CMU might be playing these pivotal matches without one of its key players, junior setter Kelly Maxwell, who sat out Saturday night with a leg injury. But in her absence, freshman Jordan Timmer filled the role as well as she possibly could with 12 assists per set.
Even without Maxwell, the team could have won against a top-40 opponent like IPFW, according to Olson. So the team can still make that turn without their star setter and then continue the run when she returns.
The Chippewas have shown that they are a good team.
But they still need to show that they’re more.
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