Volleyball earns first conference win over Western, improves to 1-3 in MAC
After dropping its home opener to Northern Illinois on Friday, the Central Michigan volleyball team bounced back Sunday to earn its first Mid-American Conference win of the season, beating Western Michigan in five sets.
The Chippewas (7-9, 1-3 MAC) fell 26-24, 25-22, 25-19 to the Huskies, which gave CMU its seventh consecutive lost set.
CMU kept that streak going into its first set against the Broncos on Sunday, falling 25-18. But the Chippewas found their confidence in the next two sets, topping WMU 25-19 and 25-11.
Head Coach Mike Gawlik said the Broncos “returned the favor” in the fourth set, beating CMU 25-9. WMU kept the momentum rolling into the fifth set, but the Chippewas rallied to win the final set 15-13 and win the match.
“We had a big win there in set three,” Gawlik said. “Even though we were chasing points a lot of the time in set five, we were right within striking distance the majority of that set. A couple of big-time plays happened in our favor and I thought we stepped up in that moment.”
Heading into the fifth set, Gawlik said he addressed “the elephant in the room” with his team, which was the Chippewas’ performance in the fourth set.
“We weren’t good that set, but it really didn’t matter going into set five,” Gawlik said. “We needed to refocus in a similar way that I felt Western Michigan found a way to refocus after really dropping the ball in set three. I said that this was going to be our set if we can find a way to have the maturity and really reset 0-0.”
Gawlik highlighted senior setter Kathia Sanchez as a leader in CMU’s matches over the weekend. The Las Piedras native tallied 77 assists, 5 kills and 17 digs over the weekend.
Sanchez echoed Gawlik’s post-game thoughts, saying the Chippewas grew as a team Sunday and will “springboard forward,” elevating their level of play in upcoming matches.
“We learned a lot (about) all the good things we can bring to the court,” Sanchez said. “I think we need to have a good week of practice and keep that momentum so we can win more games.”
Outside hitter Jordan Bueter led the Chippewas in kills, tallying 13 against NIU on Friday and 16 against WMU on Sunday. Freshman libero Megan Kern led defensively in both matches, tallying 13 digs Friday and 28 Sunday.
Freshman middle blocker Jayla Wesley averaged a team-high hitting percentage of .438 in Friday’s match, adding nine of the Chippewas’ 46 kill. NIU finished with 38.
CMU’s dramatic victory over the Broncos will bring momentum into this week’s practices and future matches, Wesley said.
“It allows us to see where we are as good volleyball players,” she said. “Our willingness to never stop fighting was awesome. The fact that we never gave up won us that match.”
The Chippewas are ranked fifth in the MAC West Division ahead of WMU (5-12, 0-4 MAC). They return to action Thursday against Eastern Michigan at 7 p.m. in McGuirk Arena.
EMU (7-10, 2-2 MAC) went 1-1 last weekend, topping WMU 3-1 and falling to NIU in straight sets.