Volleyball to face rival Western, one-win NIU

Central Michigan Volleyball players celebrate for their point earned againt Ball State on Sept. 23 at McGurik Arena.

Focus will be a point of emphasis on the road this weekend for head coach Mike Gawlik and the Central Michigan volleyball team. 

CMU (9-5, 1-1 Mid-American Conference) travels to Western Michigan to play a rivalry match Friday night before facing off against one-win Northern Illinois on Saturday.

"We're going into Kalamazoo with a single mission — to go 1-0," Gawlik said. "Northern Illinois is a perennial powerhouse in our conference and this year they're struggling in their record, but they challenged themselves really well in the pre-conference." 

The Chippewas have been working a lot this week on being strong upfront and in the middle, Gawlik said. 

Seniors Paige Carey and Taylor Robertson have been compliments to Jordan Bueter up front. Robertson played with high motivation last week with 17 kills in the first two games of MAC play. 

"Preseason is to get the experience and get ready for conference play," Robertson said. "Conference is what matters, it's go hard or go home." 

Rising Freshman 

Robertson said four freshmen have played major roles for CMU as MAC play began last Thursday. 

"I'm seeing a lot of passion and a lot of want(ing) to get better," Robertson said. "They're like sponges. They just want to absorb all the information they can and I think they're doing a really good job."

Setter Grace Butler has been a name to watch all season. Butler leads the Chippewas with 495 assists and is currently third in the MAC.

Outside Hitter Lyza Myers started the season playing at a high level. Myers is fourth for the Chippewas in kills, despite only playing the first nine games of the season. Myers has been sidelined with injury in the last five matches. 

Myers' absence has been helped by the emergence of two other freshman, Kalina Smith and Miani Bolden. The duo combined for 44 kills in two matches to open MAC play. Smith and Bolden are currently fifth and sixth in kills among Chippewas, respectively. 

"(I have) just been practicing and focusing on what I have to do as a teammate," Bolden said.  "I try to get extra reps and as much practice as I can." 

Opponent Outlook

Western Michigan (9-4, 2-0 MAC) currently sits tied atop the MAC West. The Broncos are second in the MAC in hitting percentage and lead the conference in opponent hitting percentage. WMU also leads the MAC in kills and is second only to Central Michigan in team assists. 

The Broncos are led by a trio of front-line players in Quiana Ware, Rachel Bontrager and Sydney Lemay. All three individuals have over 150 kills on the season. 

Northern Illinois (1-16, 0-2 MAC) is last place in the MAC West. NIU sits at the bottom of the conference in many major statistical categories including hitting percentage, opponent hitting percentage, assists and kills. 

Despite the Huskies inability to win matches, freshman Kaylee Martin is fifth in the MAC averaging 3.45 kills per set.