With four to go, volleyball sits in eighth and final MAC Tournament slot

Volleyball goes winless in pair of home matches, setting up critical upcoming weekend

Binge Yan | Staff Photographer On Oct. 31, 2015 in McGuirk Arena.

An opportunity to make a statement in conference play this weekend didn’t come to fruition for Central Michigan’s volleyball team.

The Chippewas fell to Western Michigan in five sets on Friday and were swept by Northern Illinois on Halloween night, pushing their losing streak to three matches.

CMU had a chance to move into second place in the Mid-American Conference West Division, facing the top two squads on its side of the conference.

However, with senior middle blocker Angie White and sophomore outside hitter Jordan Bueter out with injuries, the team was shorthanded at a crucial point in the season, and it showed.

CMU dropped to 10-15 overall and 5-7 in the Mid-American Conference, sliding to fourth place in the MAC West.

“We’ve had a lot of adversity this weekend,” said senior middle blocker Kalle Mulford. “They were close games, we weren’t getting blown out, and they were all close sets. It was just unfortunate the way things turned out.”

With players filling in for Bueter and White, the cohesiveness on the court wasn’t there at moments throughout the weekend.

“If you flip a coin it could have turned the other way against Western, and NIU just came on strong at the very end,” Mulford said. “It’s not getting away from us, we just had a lot of people doing a lot of different things this weekend, and so we couldn’t have done much better.”

After CMU honored its seniors before Saturday’s game, NIU made quick work of the Chippewas, controlling each set from start to finish on its way to a convincing sweep.

The Huskies extended its win streak over CMU to 10 games. The Chippewas last beat NIU in the MAC Tournament in 2011.

“We are very aware that we’ve never had the chance to beat Northern, we talked about it in the locker room before the game,” Mulford said. “Ray (Gooden, NIU’s coach) does a really good job with his players, and we credit them.”

WMU topped the Chippewas in a five-set clash between the rivals. The Broncos avenged a 3-2 loss to the Chippewas in Kalamazoo earlier in the season.

With an opportunity missed, and only one home game left on the schedule, clinching a spot in the MAC Tournament will be tougher.

“It hurts. We were fired up about this weekend,” Mulford said. “We were looking to take out the No. 1 and No. 2 teams. It’s an opportunity lost. Every time you lose, you did let something slip away and it’s unfortunate.”

Although Bueter’s status is unknown, White is optimistic about returning to the court for the Chippewas this season.

“We’re working on it,” White said. “It’s a work in progress just like everything else. You love the game, you love being out there, but you want to help your team however you can it doesn’t matter if you’re playing or not playing.”

With four MAC games remaining, and a spot in the tournament on the line, CMU will need to make a run to qualify for the postseason. Only the top eight teams in the conference will make it.

If the tournament started today, CMU would be the eighth and final team to qualify.

“Going into the final two weekends is going to be huge just because of the way the standings are,” said Assistant Coach Adam Rollman.

The Chippewas have a critical game against Eastern Michigan this Thursday in the final game at McGuirk Arena in 2015. The winner of that match will control its destiny for the final playoff moving forward, as the Eagles sit one game behind the Chippewas.

EMU knocked off CMU earlier in the season, making the rematch all the more important.

“We’re excited and we’re focused on that now,” Rollman said. “The EMU game could be big. We want to go and take these last two weeks of the regular season, and keep getting better every game.”

CMU takes to the road to play the top team in the conference in Ohio on Saturday.

“We’re going to continue to build, and qualify for the MAC Tournament, that’s our plan,” Rollman said. “We’re capable of beating each of the next four opponents that we play, and that’s how we have to look at it.”