It has been more than 10 years since the women’s volleyball team beat Ohio in the regular season, and it has been 23 days since Central Michigan’s last match win and 14 days since it last won a single set.
That all came to an end for the Chippewas on Saturday with an intense five-set win over the Bobcats.
“That was a big deal for this program, to get that initial win in the regular season (against Ohio),” head coach Erik Olson said. “Now we’ve done it in the tournament and the regular season, and it really helps us move forward.”
Before the six-match losing streak, CMU was sitting atop the Mid-American Conference West Division, and it looked like qualifying for the MAC Tournament was a given.
But, 23 days later, the Chippewas came into the match still needing a win to solidify its spot in the tournament, and they were sitting as the No. 8 seed, the last spot in the tournament.
“In practice, we’ve been talking about passion and leadership and the tough times when leadership pulls through,” said junior libero Jenna Coates. “We’ve been talking about how we have to get that passion back, and it’s a very big relief tonight.”
Last year, CMU ended the MAC Championship drought with the program’s first title. Saturday’s match had a lot of similarities to that MAC Championship match against Northern Illinois.
The Chippewas took an early 2-0 match lead and then dropped sets three and four to go to a decisive fifth set, which CMU won 15-12 this year, and beat the Huskies 15-11 last season.
Ohio was the top team in the MAC, as was NIU in the finals last season.
And much like that match last season to win the MAC Championship, the Chippewas played their most competitive match of the season.
“Ohio is always a big match, and we’ve had a really tough time with them in the past,” Coates said. “The first time we beat them was in the tournament last year, and that sticks in our minds, so we like to get after it.”
This match was an important one for CMU for so many reasons. It needed to end the match and set losing streak to clinch a spot in the tournament.
But a win over the Bobcats for the first time in the regular season in more than 10 years is a much-needed boost of confidence for the Chippewas.
“This win was important more of in an emotional sense,” outside hitter/middle blocker Hallie Enderle said. “More than standings and records because, after a while, you just get hungry for that win.”