Volleyball hits road for matchup with MAC East contender Bowling Green


Sophomore setter Grace Butler high-fives sophomore outside hitter Kalina Smith as they await a serve on Saturday, Sept. 22 in McGuirk Arena. 

Fresh off a fifth consecutive weekend sweep, Central Michigan puts its 11 game winning streak on the line as they travel to Bowling Green.

The Chippewas come into the 6 p.m. Friday matchup at a conference-best 16-2, while the Falcons come in at 10-8. 

As the only remaining unbeaten team within conference play, the Chippewas have created a two-game advantage within the Mid-American Conference West Division. Up next for the squad is the Falcons, who are 4-2 within conference play and tied for second in the MAC East.

"Bowling Green does a really good job of defending," said coach Mike Gawlik. "They're really balanced with their defense and they block really well."

Falcon junior Katie Kidwell is third in the conference when it comes to blocks, and Gawlik acknowledged her presence will be something the Chippewas will have to account for. Also leading the Falcons statistically is freshman Petra Indrova. She is sixth in the conference with 196 kills on the year.

As a team, Bowling Green is top in the conference in hitting percentage at .223. The Chippewas are hitting .217, good enough for third. However, the Chippewas are tops in opponent hitting percentage, so Friday night will pit the conference's most efficient offense against the best defense. The Chippewas lead the conference in kills and assists. 

Gawlik said the best way to combat the Falcon defense will be a balanced attack.

"It's gonna take good first ball contact," he said. "We just need to find seams within that block in order to keep it a bit fragmented."

The Chippewas continued their roll with two more wins last weekend, beating Ball State in four sets and outlasting Toledo in five. In the process, three Chippewas earned honors for their performances. Junior outside hitter Kalina Smith won Defensive Player of the Week, while junior Grace Butler and sophomore Kendall Braate will share the Setter of the Week award for the third time in four weeks. 

 Smith is confident heading into Friday's matchup. 

"They're a really good defensive team, they're really good at keeping balls alive," said Smith of Bowling Green. "There are gonna be some long rallies this weekend."

Smith feels that the Chippewas hold the advantage offensively and that if things go poorly, it will likely be self-inflicted. 

"It's gonna be a point-to-point battle," added junior defensive specialist Hannah Warners. "It's gonna come down to which team is grittier."

The Chippewas look to make it 12 in a row with a victory. 

Sporting a 4-1 record in road games, Central will stay on the road following its matchup as they head to Oxford, Ohio, to take on Miami (Ohio).