Volleyball tops Toledo behind Smith's 20 kills


CMU Chippewas celebrate a point at the CMU volleyball game against Akron on Oct. 21 in McGuirk Arena.

Toledo wanted to send its seniors home with a win on senior night. 

Central Michigan didn't let them. 

Central Michigan volleyball spoiled the Rockets plans with Saturdays’s 3-2 victory behind freshman Kalina Smith’s 20 kills.

CMU improves to 13-11 on the season, and now sit at 5-7 in the Mid-American Conference. The win also gave the Chippewas their third-straight victory.

“I thought we came ready to play,” said head coach Mike Gawlik. “To have players step up in big moments like Jayla (Wesley) and Kalina carry the heavier burdes is a sign that (we’re) pretty balanced offensively.”

The Chippewas came out in the first set with a lead as high as eight points. Toledo (11-13, 6-6) rallied for multiple ties, but never lead in set one, with CMU winning 25-23.

Senior Jordan Bueter registered six kills and three digs, while Freshmen Grace Butler and Kalina Smith each added an ace. Smith also added three kills.

Toledo continued their surge from the end of set one, opening the second set with a 6-2 lead. CMU pulled within one on multiple occasions, but the Rockets took set two 25-19, tying the match 1-1 going into intermission, 

Set three displayed both teams finding momentum. CMU started the set with energy, leading by as many as three. The Rockets rallied back with a 10-8 run to lead 15-13.

The Chippewas responded with a 10-7 run to win set three 25-20 and lead the match 2-1.

CMU went on a 6-1 run to lead 22-20, but the Rockets didn't surrender, finishing the match on a 5-1 run of their own to take set four 25-23. 

The final set saw yet another even battle with each team holding small leads throughout the set. CMU finished on a 10-5 run to win set five 15-12.

Smith finished with 20 kills, five digs and an ace.

“I definitely couldn’t have done without the girls,” Smith said. “Grace (Butler) did an amazing job putting a nice high hold on her set and making sure I was covered so I was confident to swing at every ball. Our defense did a really good job of setting us up to have the capability to put balls away.”

Junior Jayla Wesley added 11 kills and a block while hitting a game-high .524% for the match. 

“It was all about placing the ball where they weren’t and to be smart about each play,” Wesley said. “It was also the drive and conditioning. Without the fight we can’t get to that point, it was a team effort.”

CMU volleyball will return at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3 against Northern Illinois at McGuirk Arena.