Volleyball uses two Saturday sweeps to win Chippewa Challenge
A week ago, the Central Michigan University volleyball team was swept twice on one day in California. The team did the opposite on its own court.
The Chippewas swept San Jose State and Nebraska-Omaha on Saturday to win the Chippewa Challenge at McGuirk Arena. CMU ended nonconference play on a high note and carry a 5-8 record into Mid-American Conference action next week.
Junior setter Kathia Sanchez was named MVP of the tournament with 112 assists in a span of three matches, while freshman libero Jamison Wolffis was named Defensive MVP. Sophomore outside hitter Taylor Robertson and senior middle blocker Angie White were named to the All-Tournament team.
Head Coach Erik Olson was pleased with his team's fight on Saturday after a slow start to the weekend on Friday night.
“We had a great Saturday today but I think our team locked in and figured some things out," Olson said. "Learning how to win is a process for every team.”
Friday: Evansville 3, CMU 1 (25-22, 18-25, 22-25, 20-25)
The Chippewas started off slow in the second set and made key mistakes in their loss to the Purple Aces.
The Chippewas broke away from an 18-18 tie in the first set, grabbing a 24-22 lead before a kill by sophomore outside hitter Jessica Meichtry gave CMU the set one win.
Set two provided a different story, as Evansville's sideout percentage of 83 percent slowed the Chippewas' chances. CMU had the first point of the set on an Evansville attack error but did not lead after that, trailing by as much as six points. A 67 percent percentage in the last two sets sealed the win for Evansville.
Taylor Robertson led CMU in the match with 15 kills. Olson said that she has been a factor in all matches.
“Taylor has been consistent throughout the entire season," Olson said. "She stepped up. She’s making smart choices.”
Saturday Game 1: CMU 3, San Jose State 0 (26-24, 25-23, 25-20)
CMU grabbed control early and jumped out to an 18-13 lead in the first set. The Spartans came back to make it a game, but a Robertson kill clinched the set win for the Chippewas.
CMU fell late in the second set 21-20 but rallied to tie it at 23, one of nine ties in the set. With the help of kills from sophomore outside hitter Jordan Bueter and Robertson, CMU would take a two-set advantage. A 75 percent sideout in set three clinched the first win for CMU that did not go to five sets.
White led CMU with 14 kills. After seeing her playing time decrease on Friday, she was happy to come back and contribute.
“It’s important for me to be consistent because a lot of the team looks to me for energy," White said.
Saturday Game 2: CMU 3, Nebraska-Omaha 0 (25-21, 25-23, 25-19)
Fans filled out a pair of student sections for the last match of the tournament and the team played off their energy.
With the score tied at 16 in set one, CMU went on a seven-point run which included an ace by senior Haley Barker to push their lead to 23-16. White had back-to-back kills to give CMU a 1-0 advantage.
The Mavericks had control in set two until CMU regrouped after a timeout. After a Bueter kill tied it at 22, she and Meichtry each had a kill to extend the lead to 24-22. An attack error by Nebraska-Omaha gave the Chippewas a 2-0 lead in the match.
The Chippewas trailed 14-11 when Bueter saved a ball from going into the stands and Sanchez finished the play off with a kill. The play ignited the crowd and allowed the Chippewas to take control of the set.
Sanchez said the Bueter dive was the turning point of the match.
“That was awesome," Sanchez said. "I got lucky.”
CMU led 21-19 when White tallied her ninth kill of the match. Two Maverick attack errors and an ace from sophomore defensive specialist Courtney Hiltibran helped CMU complete their sixth set win of the day.
White and Olson said the crowd was the loudest they've heard McGuirk Arena for their team.
“The crowd was amazing today," Olson said. "I don’t think I ever felt that atmosphere in the gym at all. It was outstanding.”
The team hoisted their trophy and posed with the student section following the match.
Bueter led CMU in kills with 12, while Robertson added seven. Sanchez recorded 35 assists in the match and played in every set for the Chippewas this weekend.
Olson said a key on Saturday was the play of Sanchez, saying her play at the net gave CMU an advantage.
“Our passing was really consistent and that allowed (Sanchez) to grow in her decisions and it allowed our middles to get involved in our offense. We worked on it all week and our team did a great job managing it.”
Sanchez said that her team "came to fight" on Saturday. White echoed her teammate.
“We just came together as a team and decided to fight every single point, every single play and every single set. We know what we have to stick with and what we have to keep doing.”
CMU will now turn their attention to MAC play, with Olson saying he needs to play .500 ball for his team to have a chance.
Olson said his team is ready for conference play after watching Saturday's action, adding that his team made a decision to fight.
“It’s a decision," Olson said. "We’ve come to that conclusion. We decided to fight. After last night’s match we decided we can’t let another team out-fight us. I think we won the fight battle in both matches today."
CMU opens up MAC play at 8 p.m. ET on Friday at Northern Illinois.