Volleyball has something to prove to the MAC

Senior middle blocker Paige Carey gets ready to spike the ball over the net on Sept. 8 at the CMU Volleyball game against Cleveland State in McGuirk Arena.

With the Central Michigan volleyball team's conference opener in sight, head coach Mike Gawlik said the Chippewas look to prove the Mid-American Conference wrong. 

CMU was picked to finish fifth in the MAC West in a preseason poll of head coaches.

"Anytime you're picked lower than where you think you can go there is always something to prove," Gawlik said. "We just have to go about our business and go out and do good things to establish that's not who we are."

The Chippewas begin their quest for a MAC title at 7 p.m. Thursday for their conference opener at McGuirk Arena. CMU's second MAC match up will be against Ball State at 8 p.m. on Saturday at home.

The Chippewas are led by a strong attack up front, featuring seniors Jordan Bueter, Taylor Robertson and Paige Carey. The trio has combined for 387 kills in 12 matches. 

The back end is anchored by sophomore libero Megan Kern, who has contributed 183 digs this season.

"We're super excited to start," Kern said. "We've had a pretty good preseason and we're all playing really well together so we're definitely excited to get to MAC play."

The Chippewas finished non-conference play 8-4 and will continue to build on their best start since 2011. 

"We're absolutely trying to build off (our start)," Carey said. "We succeed as a team whenever we take our momentum to what's next and I think we have some great momentum coming into this weekend."

Opponent Outlook

Toledo (5-7)

"What impresses me the most is their balance," Gawlik said. "A team that doesn't have a primary focus can be challenging to defend."

The Rockets feature five attackers that are all averaging between two and three kills a set. 

"We're going to have to lock down and defend well," Gawlik said. 

Ball State (8-5)

"They dig well, pass well, and they just handle the ball well so they are tough to score points against," Gawlik said. "You have to make sure you're not impatient against them."

Ball State was picked to finish first in the MAC West according to the coaches' poll. 

"First things first with Toledo but we're excited to have them both in our building to kick off the 2017 campaign," Gawlik said.