Volleyball starts season 1-2 in UIC Invitational
After starting the season with a win over Maryland Eastern Shore on Aug. 24, 25-21, 20-25, 25-19, 25-21, the Central Michigan volleyball team lost back-to-back games on Aug. 25.
They dropped the first set to Bryant 20-25, 25-22, 25-17, 25-22, 15-11 and then were topped by UIC 25-23, 25-21, 25-20 totaling a 1-2 record in the UIC Invitational.
“I feel like when you go into the first weekend there are still some unknowns,” said head coach Mike Gawlik. “I think everyone going into the first weekend has question marks about who they really are. Even though we went 1-2 I feel like there was a lot of positives.”
Sophomore Kalina Smith had a team-high 27 kills and a second-best 25 digs in Saturday’s matches. Smith also led the Chippewas in Friday’s win with 15 kills. Senior Marissa Grant led the Chippewas with 78 assists on Saturday.
In the first game of the invitational, CMU and MDES were tied at 15 when the Chippewas scored six of the next seven points to take the first set. MDES would take the second set but the Chippewas responded with third and fourth round wins.
“We beat a really talented team,” Gawlik said. “Even though there were plenty of positives from the weekend overall, it was nice to get this one.”
Grant had 40 assists against MDES to lead the Chippewas. Smith, freshman Savannah Thompson and Maddie Whitfield and sophomore Lyza Myers all had double figures in kills.
With them all being underclassmen, Gawlik said with only four upperclassmen on the roster there is a lot of youth around all the time regardless of who plays well or struggles.
“We lost a lot of seniors that played in a lot of matches from a year ago,” Gawlik said. “You don’t just replace that in one weekend because someone is a good volleyball player. I think we have a lot of skill, but sometimes we need to contain our composure and poise when moments get a little bit tough.
“As a young team, that’s something we have to learn really fast.”
Against Bryant, CMU took sets two and three after dropping set one to take a lead. The Bulldogs, however, distanced themselves late in sets four and five for the win. In game two, the Flames swept the Chippewas in three sets.
“I think some of the games there early got out of control,” Gawlik said. “I think the positive there is though that we made all of the sets look closer than it was going to be halfway through the set. When you have a team that keeps fighting and won’t give up, I think you can turn them into some wins.”
Smith was the lone Chippewa representative on the All-Tournament team. The Powell, WY native had 42 kills, 28 digs, three blocks and two aces to help lead CMU on offense and defense.
“I talked with her after the match and I think she is still looking for a little more consistency in her game,” Gawlik said. “She’s going to have to carry a senior or junior role for us even though she’s only a sophomore. As she grows in that role, I think she will be a real special player in our league.”
CMU opens the home season in Mount Pleasant next weekend for the Chippewa Invitational. CMU starts with La Salle at 12:30 p.m. then takes on DePaul at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 31. The weekend ends with Valparaiso at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 1.