Volleyball prepares for MAC play after Chippewa Challenge win
After taking a beating Friday in a 3-1 loss to Evansville, the Central Michigan University volleyball team fought hard on Saturday.
The Chippewas swept San Jose State and Nebraska-Omaha on Saturday to win the Chippewa Challenge at McGuirk Arena. CMU improved to 5-8 on the season and will now focus on Mid-American Conference play, which is set to begin this weekend.
A trio of road trips to Northern Illinois, Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan begins Friday before CMU comes back home to play Kent State Oct. 3.
Head Coach Erik Olson said his team has talent but was not able to put everything together throughout the first three weeks of the season. Everything came to fruition on Saturday.
“We had a great Saturday, but I think our team locked in and figured some things out. Learning how to win is a process for every team. This is what we had spurts of in every single match this season.”
Junior setter Kathia Sanchez dished 112 assists to win Tournament MVP in her first action at McGuirk Arena. She said the fans in attendance really helped her and the team.
“I loved the energy we had and the crowd was amazing,” Sanchez said. “We came to fight.”
Freshman libero Jamison Wolffis was named Defensive MVP after recording 33 digs.
“Jamie did a great job of passing the ball,” Olson said. “That kept our offense going. I think teams were playing keep away from her.”
Sophomore outside hitter Taylor Robertson and senior middle blocker Angie White were named to the All-Tournament team. White had 28 kills, including 23 on Saturday after being replaced by sophomore Paige Carey during the third set against Evansville Friday night.
“With it being my last year as a senior, it’s really special to be on the All-Tournament team at home,” White said. “It’s a special feeling.”
Olson said the passing game has improved from last week to this week. He hopes all phases of the game will get better as the team heads to MAC play from now until November.
“You’ve got to have a .500 record in MAC play to even have a chance,” Olson said. “I think that it’s important for us to play back-to-back good volleyball.”
The team has a lot to look forward to as the conference season begins, including a large amount of playing time for three key players. Sanchez and sophomore outside hitter Jordan Bueter (30 kills) did not leave the floor this weekend while Wolffis only took a few plays off.
Olson has experimented with different rotations to try and kickstart his team.
He played three defensive specialists at one time (Wolffis, senior Haley Barker and sophomore Courtney Hiltibran) and also had Robertson and fellow sophomore outside hitter Jessica Meichtry play at the same time. He also platooned White and fellow senior middle blocker Kalle Mulford up front.
Olson said his team had to make a decision to fight on Saturday, and did. He hopes they choose to fight once MAC play arrives.
“We’re athletic,” Olson said. “We’re fast. We’re powerful. We can do things but you’ve got to use the things you have in your tool belt to accomplish those things. That’s what the team started to do.”
CMU starts MAC play at 8 p.m. ET Friday at Northern Illinois.