Volleyball swept by Eastern Michigan in home finale
Down two sets at home, all eighteen players listed on the Central Michigan volleyball team roster huddled up.
No coaches, just players attempting to right the ship.
The Chippewas (20-5,10-3 Mid-American Conference) lost Thursday in McGuirk Arena to Eastern Michigan (10-15, 5-8 MAC) in straight sets.
Thursday’s match was not only the final home match of the season, but an opportunity for the Chippewas to clinch at least a share of the MAC West Division title, something the team has done only once back in 2003.
Sophomore outside hitter Savannah Thompson said that each conference game is important and the team does not necessarily think about winning the division title.
“I think that’s obviously something that’s always on peoples mind,” Thompson said. “It’s just something that no one ever speaks up about, we just tried to go into this game thinking that this is just another MAC volleyball game."
The Chippewas started the game off slowly with a team hitting percentage of .073 in the first set, while allowing EMU to hit .344. CMU lost the first set, 25-18.
“Wasn’t the outcome we wanted,” said coach Mike Gawlik. “As a group we started off just a bit slow, credit to Eastern for jumping out early and feeling a little blood in the water so to say.”
The second set was much closer, although the Chippewas still began the set against an early 4-1 deficit.
As CMU fought back, the teams eventually found themselves tied at 24. The Chippewas jumped in front, 25-24, via an EMU attack error to take the lead with an opportunity to end the set and tie the match at one set apiece.
The Eagles ended up scoring the next three points to win the set 27-25, and took a 2-0 match lead.
“In set two down the stretch we put ourselves in a position to try to steal set two,” Gawlik said. “I don’t know that we outplayed them in set two very long, but we kept ourselves close and in position to capitalize and try to steal set two.”
After losing such a hard fought set, coaches gathered to discuss the third set and the players circled around themselves to figure out what was next.
“My favorite part about those moments is the bench really comes in and speaks their mind,” Thompson said. “When you’re out on the floor it’s the six of you, it’s the seven of you and the subs and we get to hear what they see.”
When the third set began, the Chippewas started off slow again conceding an early lead to the visiting team. CMU fought back to take the lead, but the Eagles would not be denied finishing the set with a 25-22 victory.
The Chippewas lost in a home court sweep for only the second time this season, the first at the hands of Illinois-Chicago during the Chippewa Invitational. They finished with a hitting percentage of .157 while EMU had a .248 hitting percentage.
“I don’t think we brought our best to the gym tonight,” Gawlik said. “I do think that at moments we had these spurts of points that got us back within reach.”
Junior outside hitter Kalina Smith led the team with 13 kills to go along with 15 digs. Senior libero Megan Kern finished the game with 16 digs and two kills in her final game at McGuirk Arena.
Sophomore setter Kendall Braate missed her second straight game due to a concussion. Junior setter Grace Butler had 32 assists on the night playing as the lone setter.
While the loss was poor timing for CMU, the mid-match meeting among the teammates might be the formula the team needs to be put back on the winning track and achieve its goal of winning a MAC title.
“I said to the group in the locker room that I love a lot of things about this team and that doesn’t change because we didn’t have our best match,” Gawlik said. “I still think that we’re an awfully good squad and we have a decision to make about how we’re going to deal with a 3-0 sweep in our home building.”
CMU finishes the season with three road games, the first coming Saturday against Ohio (13-12, 5-7 MAC).
With the MAC West still up for the taking, the Chippewas will likely keep an eye on second place Ball State. CMU will travel to Muncie, Indiana on Nov. 16 in a match up that could be the deciding match for the division crown.
“As a team we’re really good at thinking wash away what happened the night before and focus on what’s in the future,” Smith said. “Obviously we have to learn from what happened tonight, every team when they go through a loss, but you can’t dwell on it.”