Volleyball adapting as MAC Tournament approaches
After losing three role players from the 2014 roster as well as undergoing a coaching switch during the middle of this season, the Central Michigan volleyball team knows all about adapting.
The Chippewas are hoping to change the culture of this program with a trip to the Mid-American Conference Tournament for the first time since 2012. They can do so with one more victory next weekend as they travel to Toledo on Friday and Ball State on Saturday.
By beating Eastern Michigan in its home finale on Thursday, CMU knocked its closest competitor back another game. If the Eagles would have topped the Chippewas, it would be EMU sitting in the final playoff spot instead of CMU.
On Saturday, CMU was swept by the Ohio Bobcats in Athens, Ohio, the site of the MAC Tournament. The Chippewas (11-16, 6-8 MAC) sit in fourth place in the MAC West.
Despite the Saturday loss, this team is confident it will make its first MAC Tournament in three seasons, hoping to win it all for the first time since 2011.
“We sort of huddled up after the (Ohio) match and said ‘Let’s get back here and let’s make sure we don’t feel like this on that court again,’” said Associate Head Coach Theresa Beeckman.
Beeckman added CMU’s fight never died down against the Bobcats, as they remained close in the second set (losing 25-23) and third set (losing 25-20).
“It was a dogfight,” she said. “They were a clean volleyball team and they were very, very good. To beat a team like that, we’re going to have to do a better job of taking care of the volleyball while playing aggressive.”
The Chippewas are looking to turn the page and focus on playing cleaner and getting healthier. CMU played its sixth consecutive match without senior middle blocker Angie White (right ankle) and committed 17 attack errors against the Bobcats.
"The cleaner we play, the scarier we are because we are a terrifying team,” Beeckman said.
Beeckman added that her middle blockers are “banged up,” including senior Kalle Mulford and freshman Lexi Duello.
“They’re troopers and our training room is doing a good job of keeping them safe while also trying to keep them manageable for the game,” she said.
Beeckman’s goal is to be aggressive and to clean up the mistakes in practice this week. She believes her team will make the MAC Tournament.
“I think our mindset is in a place where we’re fighting for it,” she said. “We are in a good place for it. I think they have a mindset of making a statement (in Ohio). I think they’re hungry to keep it going as long as possible.”
CMU will have to clinch its MAC Tournament spot away from McGuirk Arena. The Chippewas are 2-4 away from McGuirk Arena in conference play.
“Our forte this whole year has been adapting,” Beeckman said. “The actual act of going on the road is not bad for us.”
CMU will rely on its depth to carry them into the postseason, especially possibly without White. The Chippewas once again used 11 players in its loss to Ohio and feel they have good depth.
“Our willingness to adapt to any situation we’re thrown in is probably the thing that sets us aside the most, and that’s the thing that leads us to have more depth.”
The Chippewas will look from its top two outside hitters in the final matches of the season. Sophomore Jordan Bueter ranks sixth in the conference with 3.26 kills per set, while fellow sophomore outside hitter Taylor Robertson has played well of late.
Robertson moved to the opposite pin when Bueter sat out with an injury on Oct. 30 against Western Michigan. Since then, Robertson has recorded 59 kills in four matches.
“She’s just a great player,” Beeckman said. “She’s just very determined to make the best out of the situation we’re throwing her in.”
CMU hopes to use its depth and talent to make a push for the MAC Tournament. Beeckman is confident in her team despite the loss to Ohio.
“It’s only a complete loss if you don’t learn from it,” she said. “They’re pretty determined. Their mindset is good.”