Volleyball team: We play best when we have fun

In front of its home fans, Central Michigan’s volleyball team turned a potential distraction into a weekend sweep, and now take to the road for two crucial matchups.

The Chippewas have rallied since Erik Olson was placed on a paid leave of absence Oct. 6, and are using last weekend’s success as motivation to bring more excitement on the court.

Senior middle blocker Angie White said one of the key factors to wins over Ball State and Toledo last weekend was the team choosing to enjoy the game more.

“We’re manufacturing it, and we just made a decision to have fun,” White said. “It’s the sport we love. We fell in love with it years ago, so it’s not hard to enjoy what you’re doing, we just had to make a choice.”

Junior outside hitter Jessica Meichtry agreed with White.

“We play the best when we have fun,” said Meichtry. “It feels awesome to have fun and play the sport that you love.”

With Olson out, Associate Head Coach Theresa Beeckman, Assistant Coach Adam Rollman and Volunteer Assistant Kelly Maxwell are leading the program.

“We’re going through some stuff obviously, and it sucks,” Beeckman said. “I don’t know if more fun is the way, but we’ve certainly tried to emphasize fun to counter what we’re going through.”

Beeckman said her top priority has been concentrating on making sure the players are happy.

“We want to make sure that they’re taken care of,” Beeckman said. “We want to make sure they have every piece of information we can possibly give them ahead of time, and we want to make sure they’re enjoying every bit about this process.”

As soon as the news came out, Beeckman wasted little time in figuring out a plan to keep the team afloat.

“When things went down, I just kind of said, ‘OK, this is what we have to do, we have to make sure that they are going to have fun with this,’” Beeckman said. “Because otherwise, it could be miserable, so it’s not whether we’re having more fun or less fun, it’s just that’s been more emphasized in the last week.”

There have been no changes in the way the team has approached practice or games.

“They are doing a really good job at keeping things consistent,” Meichtry said. “There’s no surprises when you come into the gym. Everything is very consistent, and we know what to expect. Therefore, we can just focus on volleyball and getting ready for our opponent.”

Beeckman’s and Rollman’s ability to keep the team focused during the uncertain time period has been crucial to the current success the Chippewas have garnered over the past week.

“They’ve been very supportive,” White said about the coaches. “We’re still a family, we’re still close-knit. They check on us, they make sure we’re doing fine, and if we need anything they are there for us. They’re doing the best they can, and it’s great for us.”

CMU (8-11 overall, 3-3 MAC) plays Miami (Ohio) Thursday at 7 p.m., and Bowling Green Friday at 7 p.m. Both games can be seen on ESPN3.

The Redhawks enter the match in second-place in the MAC East Division at 12-7 overall, and 4-2 in conference games.

With a win against Miami, CMU would have its longest MAC winning streak since 2012, and its longest winning streak of the 2015 campaign.

However, Miami has been dominant at home this year, going 7-0 with six of them being sweeps.

The Chippewas have struggled on the road this season, posting a 1-5 road record away from McGuirk Arena so far in 2015. Miami defeated CMU 3-0 in Mount Pleasant last season.

“It takes a lot of emotion to beat a team like Ball State or Miami,” Beeckman said.

White said the Chippewas are not concerned about the Redhawks dominance in Oxford, Ohio.

“We’re focused on us, we’re good enough (to win),” White said. “It doesn’t matter how good they are, it doesn’t matter how many times they’ve won or lost at home. We’re just going to be us, which is good enough.”

Friday, the Chippewas will make the 30-minute drive from Miami to Bowling Green.

BGSU (5-14, 1-5 MAC) limps into the match on a three-game losing streak, and is currently in last place in the MAC East.

Beeckman said the team uses the “the game doesn’t know” quote by former UCLA softball coach Sue Enquist to prevent the players from overlooking opponents.

“The game doesn’t know how good you’re supposed to be,” she said. “The game doesn’t know what your record is, what your opponent’s record is. They are taking that serious right now, and that’s a really exciting thing.”

Junior outside hitter Jessica Meichtry said the Chippewas will concentrate on one thing, and one thing only heading into both matches.

“We’re just going to be Central Michigan volleyball,” said Meichtry. “We’re just going to go out there and focus on our side of the net. It doesn’t really matter who we’re playing, we’re going to focus on us and have fun.”