OPINION: Volleyball needs confidence, consistency to improve
Ask Mike Gawlik what improvements the Central Michigan volleyball team needs to make heading into this weekend's matches against Miami (OH) and Bowling Green, he'll send reporters searching for a pen.
After CMU split last weekend, the first-year head coach told the media his team had a laundry list of things it needs to work on — confidence and consistency are at the top of that list.
The Chippewas are now 2-4 in the Mid-American Conference after earning their first two wins over in-state rivals Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan on Oct. 2 and Oct. 6 at home. Both matches ended in five sets. With the exception of its 3-2 loss against Ball State on Sept. 23, CMU has lost the rest if its matches in straight sets.
I probably speak for everyone in attendance at McGuirk Arena when I say those matches had me on my toes.
CMU fell behind by more than 10 points in some sets, but would then rebound to win the next set with ease. The Chippewas would come back as a different team in each set, but you never knew which team was going to show up.
Sunday night, the Broncos dominated the first set from the start. CMU trailed by 11 points before it began to rally back — a little too late — and lost the first set 25-18.
After CMU rebounded to win the next two sets, I started typing the headline for my game story, "Volleyball earns first MAC win over Western." But by the end of the fourth set, I was second guessing my prediction after CMU fell 25-9 and committed 13 errors.
Thursday's match against EMU was similar, with a shaky team in one set and a strong, confident one in the next. CMU hit .438 and .417 in sets four and five, after posting a .56, -.125 and .257 hitting percentage in the first three sets.
Gawlik gave a spot-on analogy when he compared his team's confidence to a house of cards that can be built up in one set, but crash down easily the next.
"We build (our confidence) up and it's really great, but it's fragile," he said at last Thursday's press conference. "When one or two points get by us, we're letting that turn into three, four, even six points at times. That's trouble."
CMU has the ability to play top-notch volleyball. It just needs to be consistent.
The Chippewas will square off against the RedHawks tonight at 7 p.m. and the Falcons Saturday.
Miami (14-4, 6-0 MAC) is riding a 13 game wining streak heading into McGuirk Arena. To compete with top-tier teams like that, CMU needs to find that confidence within themselves and let it show, consistently, in each set.