Chippewas rebound from slow start, go 2-1 at DePaul Invitational

Libero, Megan Kern, dives to save the ball while playing against Eastern Illinois during the Chippewa Invitational Friday, Sept. 6.

Central Michigan started slowly but rebounded to take each of its final two matches in a four-team invitational held last weekend at DePaul in Chicago.

The Chippewas lost to the host Blue Demons on Friday night before coming back to win both of their Saturday matches, first against Valparaiso and then against Holy Cross.

Friday: DePaul 3, Central Michigan 1

The Chippewas were competitive but unable to overcome the DePaul attack Friday night. DePaul won set one 25-23, set two 35-33, and set four 25-19, while the Chippewas took set three 25-18. 

“I thought we were right in the thick of sets one and two,” Gawlik said.

He noted the need for his team to be “one play better” in certain situations. However, he admitted it wasn’t anything that couldn’t be fixed. 

Statistically, the Chippewas were led by Kalina Smith, who had 21 kills as well as libero Megan Kern with 12 digs. Kendall Braate also contributed 28 assists for the Chippewas.

Saturday: Central Michigan 3, Valparaiso 1; Central Michigan 3, Holy Cross 0

After the setback Friday night, CMU rebounded to take two victories. The Chippewas knocked off a solid Valparaiso team before sweeping Holy Cross later that afternoon. 

Against Valparaiso, CMU won its first two sets. After dropping set three, the Chippewas closed out the match with a set four victory. 

Gawlik was proud of the way his team rebounded on a quick turnaround after losing the previous night. He said they were able to flip the script and make the critical plays, which are often the difference between wins and losses.

Two of CMU’s set victories against Valparaiso were of the minimum two-point variety.

The Chippewas closed their strong weekend with the sweep of Holy Cross. They were led in that match by Smith and her 12 kills. Sophomore Sierra Gray had 10 kills, while junior middle blocker Lisbeth Rosario-Martinez contributed 9. 

Junior Hannah Warners had two aces for the Chippewas in the victory. Grace Butler also contributed 19 assists. 

While Gawlik would’ve been happier to have gone 3-0, he felt his team gained a lot from the experience and showed signs of growth, a focal point of the weekend.

“The show of a mature team is to be able to bounce back,” he said. 

Going 2-1 at the tournament pushes the Chippewas’ record to 7-2. 

CMU travels to Youngstown State for a two-day invitational beginning on Friday. In that invitational, Gawlik's squad will take on Eastern Illinois, Robert Morris, and Youngstown State.