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Volleyball must win pair of matches in order to make MAC

As it prepares for the final weekend of the regular season, the Central Michigan University volleyball team is 10-16 overall, and sit in the eighth and final spot of the Mid-American Conference tournament.

The Chippewas face a pair of must-win matches against Northern Illinois University and Western Michigan University this weekend.

“Let’s be honest, there is a little bit of pressure,” said freshman setter Kylie Copple. “I love pressure. We live for that kind of stuff. That kind of pressure helps us thrive.”

If the CMU women win both matches, they will guarantee a spot in the MAC Tournament.  If they lose, it will be up to the other teams' performances.

The University of Buffalo, which sits directly behind CMU in the conference standings, defeated CMU earlier in the season.

If the two teams are tied in conference play, the Bulls hold the tie breaker and would qualify for the tournament instead of the Chippewas.

“Our tournament hopes have been on the line all season,” said CMU coach Erik Olson. “That Buffalo match, there wouldn’t even be a conversation if (CMU) had that match back.”

The women are 3-5 in road matches this season, and play at both NIU and WMU.

Both the Broncos and Huskies took wins at McGuirk Arena earlier in the year and have already clinched their spots in the conference tournament.

“We didn’t make Northern play more than a set and a half last time,” Olson said. “That’s the challenge. What’s the team going to do at their place, which is what we consider the nastiest environment.”

Olson had a similar prognosis for the matchup against WMU.

“In the Western match, we were so close,” he said. “We know exactly what needs to be done to win these matches. We just have to execute.”

CMU junior and defensive specialist Kristen Reenders said the team is not taking the opportunity to keep its season going lightly.

“We’re taking it one game at a time,” Reenders said. “We’re playing this weekend like a championship weekend. If we play our best game on Friday and Saturday, we will be fine.”

With three seniors on the roster so close to a chance to make a tournament run, Copple said she would want nothing more than to give those veterans a chance to go out on the MAC’s largest volleyball stage.

“None of us want to see our seniors go out without going to the MAC tournament,” Copple said. “If we get those two games, I don’t think anyone can stop us.”

Olson said if nothing else, his team deserves a shot to compete against the conference’s top teams in postseason play.

“This would be pushing through that next barrier for (the team),” he said. “It’s been a season of learning. I’m hoping we get some of that payback for all the hard work we put in all season.”