Volleyball learns to adapt in wild 2015 season
It was a season of uncertainty for the Central Michigan volleyball team.
The Chippewas ended their season on Saturday with a loss at Ball State in five sets. CMU finished with an 11-18 record (6-10 Mid-American Conference) to finish in fifth place in the MAC West and ninth in the conference.
The Chippewas missed out on the MAC Tournament for the third consecutive season, but the team believes it adapted to whatever situation it was in this season.
“They just rolled with it,” said Associate Head Coach Theresa Beeckman. “They just believed. They had faith in themselves. You could never count them out.”
CMU started its season with a 3-7 record before hosting three matches in its annual Chippewa Challenge.
After losing the first match of the tournament, the Chippewas swept San Jose State and Nebraska-Omaha to win the Chippewa Challenge and head into the MAC schedule with a 5-8 record.
The Chippewas opened MAC play with a loss at Northern Illinois on Sept. 25, then defeated Western Michigan the next day for its first win in Kalamazoo since 2006. The following week, CMU lost at Eastern Michigan on Oct. 1 and at home to Kent State on Oct. 3.
Three days later, Head Coach Erik Olson was placed on paid leave of absence. The team was coached collectively by Associate Head Coach Theresa Beeckman and assistant coaches Adam Rollman and Kelly Maxwell for the rest of the season.
“I think when that happened, we were put on a different path,” Beeckman said.
The team returned to the court without its head coach, and won three of its next four matches. Then, injuries took a toll on the team.
Senior middle blocker Angie White was sidelined for six of the team’s final eight matches with a right ankle injury. Sophomore outside hitter Jordan Bueter also sat out two matches on Halloween weekend. CMU lost both of those matches at home to WMU and NIU.
The Chippewas had a chance to clinch a MAC Tournament spot with a victory on the road in either of its last two matches of the season. The Chippewas fell to last-place Toledo in five sets and did the same the next day at Ball State.
A win would have moved up to sixth place, but the resulting loss left CMU’s postseason fate depending on Toledo to defeat EMU. The Eagles beat the Rockets in five sets, ending CMU’s tournament hopes.
The Chippewas lost six of its final seven matches.
“I don’t know if we had enough depth at the right positions to overcome some of those (injuries). We just didn’t have enough experience,” Beeckman said.
CMU featured 11 underclassmen on its roster. The Chippewas were led by Bueter, who led the team with 361 kills. Sophomore outside hitter Taylor Robertson totaled 312 kills and sophomore outside hitter Jessica Meichtry added 265.
Two newcomers also contributed. Freshman libero Jamison Wolffis recorded 505 digs and junior setter Kathia Sanchez served up 1,023 assists.
“They’re extremely talented, good young players,” Beeckman said. “I think it can translate into huge success. I think the journey we went through this season may be the reason they never miss the tournament again in their careers.”
Despite missing six contests, White led the team with 84 blocks, while fellow senior middle blocker Kalle Mulford added 66. Senior defensive specialist Haley Barker tallied 140 digs.
The trio played their last season for the program.
The team practiced on Monday despite not having an upcoming match, with Beeckman saying it was a team-decision. Beeckman was proud of her team for wanting to continue to play and warned of the expectations for next season.
“We have standards,” she said. “We have to make sure that they remain high and you have to make sure that you’re working hard. It’s going to be up to them.”
The season was full of adversity and change, but the Chippewas’ youth and ability to adapt should help them in seasons to come, Beeckman said.
“I think the season was an unpredictable journey that tested everybody,” she said. “I believe the potential on our team is amazing.”