Pair of strong offenses to challenge volleyball in second weekend of conference play
Defense will be key for Central Michigan’s volleyball squad heading into its pair of matches this week.
Three of the top outside hitters in the Mid-American Conference take on a Chippewas’ defense that is ranked in the lower half of the conference.
The Chippewas travel to in-state rival Eastern Michigan (8-7, 0-2 MAC) at 7 p.m. Thursday, and return home for a showdown with Kent State (7-7, 1-1 MAC) at 8 p.m. Saturday at McGuirk Arena.
CMU ranks eighth out of 12 teams in opponent hitting percentage, possibly leaving the door open for offensive opportunities for EMU and KSU.
The Eagles offensive push will come from senior outside hitter Stacey Perinar, who is second in the conference in total kills with 208. CMU is familiar with Perinar, as she tallied 29 kills in the two matches against the Chippewas last season.
“Eastern came out of the early season with a decent RPI,” said Head Coach Erik Olson. “They look pretty good on film, and they return all of their hitters.”
Although its offense is highly ranked, Eastern Michigan limps into their matchup with CMU after dropping its first two conference matches last week.
The Chippewas split their matches with EMU last season, with each team winning at home.
Olson said playing in Ypsilanti will present a different challenge for the Chippewas than last weekend’s raucous Northern Illinois fanbase.
“Playing in Eastern’s (gym), it’s an interesting venue,” he said. “Not very many people are there, so it’s quiet. So you really have to build your own energy and bring that to the table.”
CMU’s offensive play will be key as the Eagles defense is ranked second in the conference in both digs and opponent hitting percentage.
Leading EMU’s defense is Corynne Smith, who Olson said was one of the top libero’s in the MAC. Smith ranks second in the conference in digs with 5.04 per set.
“They return most of their hitters, and a very good libero,” he said. “I think she’s number one or number two maybe in the conference.”
Kent State split its first two MAC games last week and will bring a pair of talented outside hitters to Mount Pleasant.
Kent State defeated CMU in five sets during their lone match in 2014.
“It’s a different team for them, and a different team for us,” Olson said. “But I’m sure excited to play them.”
The Golden Flashes’ tandem of Kelsey Bittinger and Kelly Hutchinson provides a defensive challenge for CMU.
Bittinger is ranked first in MAC in total kills with 212, and Hutchinson sits at fifth in kills per set with 3.46.
“Their outside hitters have done some good things,” Olson said. “Each week I see Player of the Week nominees. They have definitely put up some good numbers in the past few weeks.”
CMU’s sophomore outside hitter Jessica Meichtry said the Chippewas are preparing for each opponent the same no matter the name.
“For any matchup, we’re just focusing on our side of the court,” said Meichtry. “Doesn’t really matter who we’re playing, we don’t really think about the opponents.”