Smith's 16 kills not enough in volleyball's 3-1 loss to Northern Illinois


Freshman setter Grace Butler, right, sets the ball for freshman middle blocker Miani Bolden, center, to spike over the net during the CMU Volleyball game against Ball State on Sept. 23 at McGuirk Arena. 

Freshman outside hitter Kalina Smith’s 16 kills were not enough to knock off Northern Illinois as Central Michigan volleyball fell 3-1 in DeKalb.

“Kalina got better as the match went on,” head coach Mike Gawlik said. “I thought she took some really big swings and found ways to terminate the ball. The one thing we asked her to do was be aggressive. As she got more and more comfortable, she found success.”

Set one was even until NIU pulled away late to take the set 25-20. Smith led the Chippewas with four kills in the set while senior defensive specialist Courtney Hiltibran contributed four digs.

Set two proved to be even again until the end, with the Huskies taking the set 25-22. Smith would add another four kills and Hiltibran would also add four more digs. Head coach Mike Gawlik would switch from Emily Wenglikowski to Hilitbran at Libero following the second set.

CMU (9-7, 1-3) went on a five-point rally to take a 9-6 lead, forcing an NIU timeout. The huskies tied up the third set 10-10, but the Chippewas pulled away in the end to take set three 25-18. Smith recorded five kills in set three.

“It took us a while to find our rhythm,” Gawlik said. “I thought we found it set three and really did some damage once we got our legs underneath us.”

The Chippewas found themselves back and forth early in set four, but the huskies (2-17, 1-3) pulled away with an 11-2 run to take set four 25-17, and the match 3-1. Freshman setter Grace Butler finished the match with a match-high 55 assists.

“It’s challenging to play on the road in the (Mid-American) Conference,” Gawlik said. “We have to keep our composure and play effectively to find success.”

CMU returns to action on Thursday at Eastern Michigan at 7 p.m.