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Volleyball looks to rebound at Chippewa Challenge

Greg Cornwell | Staff Photographer Sophomore middle blocker Paige Carey practices serving during a practice session Tuesday afternoon at McGuirk Arena ahead of the Chippewa Challenge.

Following a rocky start to the season, playing at home might be the perfect remedy for Central Michigan University’s volleyball team.

CMU (3-7) will stumble into this weekend’s Chippewa Challenge riding a three-game losing streak after losing their last eight sets.

“I seriously cannot wait to play here,” sophomore outside hitter Jordan Bueter said. “You’re home, you’re relaxed, even more relaxed than you would be. You also get really excited just because you know people, and people are coming to support just us.”

This will be freshman setter Marissa Grant’s first time playing a regular season game in front of the Chippewa fans.

“I’m really excited to get the experience of the atmosphere here,” Grant said. “It’ll be a lot of fun because we’ve been on the road so much, and now people are actually going to be able to come to our games. It’s just going to be a great time.”

CMU will face Evansville, San Jose State and Nebraska-Omaha at McGuirk Arena in the two-day tournament.

The Chippewas split with Evansville and Nebraska-Omaha during the 2014 campaign.

CMU takes on Evansville (4-6) at 7 p.m. Friday. The Chippewas earned their first win against the Purple Aces 3-1 last season. UE is led by sophomore outside-hitter Genesis Miranda, who currently leads the Missouri Valley Conference in kills with 197. She was also named to the All-Freshman team last season.

“Evansville is a little better of a team than they were last year,” CMU Head Coach Erik Olson said. “They’re less sloppy with taking care of the ball. Overall, their ball control is a little bit better.”

Another player to watch is senior libero Kim Deprez, who is ranked first in the MVC in digs with 208.

Olson said junior setter Kathia Sanchez will be the starter at the setter position despite suffering an injury during the Fresno State Invite.

“I haven’t seen any limitations thus far,” Olson said about Sanchez. “She’s in pain, but she’s fully functional. I wouldn’t see any reason why things wouldn’t go well for her.”

The Chippewas rank 10th in the Mid-American Conference, averaging 10.85 assists per set. Sanchez has seen the bulk of the action playing in 30 of the Chippewas’ 38 sets. The Puerto Rico native leads the team with 250 assists, while Grant has played in 18 of the 38 sets totaling 97 assists.

The Chippewas matchup with San Jose State Saturday at 12:30 p.m. The Spartans enter the tournament 6-4, winning five of their last six games.

SJSU’s 66 service aces is the most in the Mountain West Conference, with four Spartans having 10 or more compared to just one player for CMU.

The Chippewas will finish the Challenge at 7:30 p.m. Saturday against Nebraska-Omaha (4-6), a team that topped CMU 3-1 in the season opener last year.

Keep an eye out for Maverick senior outside hitter Kelley Wollak, as she became the 19th player in Nebraska-Omaha history to surpass 1,000 career kills during last week’s event. The 5-foot-9 veteran leads her squad with 145 kills.

“They have done some good things,” Olson said. “I have no pulse on them because that was our first match of the season last year, and we were a mess in that first match. I think Omaha might be the best team that’s coming into this tournament, but Evansville is much improved from last year.”