The winner of the first set has won the match in volleyball’s past 15 matches.
Getting ahead early will be key this weekend against Miami (Ohio) and Bowling Green.
The Chippewas led Kent State 23-20 in the first set Saturday after sweeping Eastern Michigan two days earlier. Five consecutive errors gave the Golden Flashes the set, and CMU was never able to rebound.
“I think our mindset was ‘Crud, we completely had this match in hand,’” head coach Erik Olson said. “We just didn’t do things that were very characteristic of ourselves.”
The Chippewas are 1-9 this season when they lose the first set in a match, with their only victory coming Sept. 7 against Robert Morris.
“I do think the first set is a big momentum swing,” junior outside hitter Kaitlyn McIntyre said. “It’s always tough being down a set early. It’s always nice to get that first set, but I don’t think it affects us really.”
The loss put CMU at 8-10 on the season and 2-4 in MAC play.
“It’s probably the most disgusted I’ve been with my team in a long time Saturday night and they know it,” Olson said. “I don’t get mad at them too often because I believe in a process, but I feel like we’re a lot better than what we displayed Saturday night.”
One of the biggest factors for the Chippewas going into the weekend is the health of senior setter Kelly Maxwell. While she played both matches last weekend after sitting out the previous two weekends, Olson said he could tell she was ailing Saturday night.
“She was fantastic Thursday night,” Olson said. “Saturday night, she got a little tighter and a little bit more pain, and I think she had a difficult time with managing all that, as well as the match. It’s one of those things where it’s just an uncontrollable. She’s working on it, and hopefully we can give her an opportunity to get back out there.”
Maxwell is ranked thirteenth in the country with 11.59 assists per set. The only other setter on the roster, junior Dani Thompson, is also battling an injury.
“I think Dani can do some good things for us,” Olson said. “But I think Maxwell’s the best setter in the conference, so yeah, I think she’s important to us.”
Throughout the setter injuries, McIntyre and senior defensive specialist Jenna Coates have provided the team with offensive and defensive stability.
McIntyre, who was honored Saturday for reaching 1,000 kills, is 28th in the country with 4.16 kills per set, while Coates is eighth in the nation with 5.6 digs per set.
While CMU has players at the top of the charts in many individual categories, they are ranked 208th out of 332 teams in RPI (ratings percentage index). Miami and Bowling Green enter the weekend ranked No. 151 and No. 64.
“Miami and Bowling Green are both very good teams,” McIntyre said. “Both would be very good matches and two awesome wins to get on the road.”
Olson said CMU has had success against Miami over the years and that its biggest concern should be to not beat itself.
“I don’t think Miami’s record is as bad as it says,” Olson said. “Even though Kent State beat them, I think Miami’s a better team. I was clearly not pleased with our outcome Saturday night. I thought we beat ourselves, not them. At the same time, Miami is very beatable. We just have to do a good job of executing and being us.”
Even though the team was disappointed with last weekend’s results, Olson said the team had a positive mindset in preparing for this weekend’s matches.
“I don’t have a crystal ball, but I know that they’re determined and that they expect a whole lot more out of themselves than what’s happening and I certainly expect a whole lot more,” Olson said. “I know the team came out of the team meeting on Monday with some very determined faces.”