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Volleyball shows maturity in road win over rival Eastern Michigan

Freshmen outside hitter Savannah Thompson bumps the ball on Oct. 13 at McGuirk Arena.

Central Michigan volleyball won its eighth straight match Thursday night, taking down rival Eastern Michigan on the road. 

The Chippewas were able to take the final three sets after dropping the first to the Eagles. 

Central Michigan lost the first set 25-18 before winning each of the last three sets by finals of 25-23, 25-21, and 25-20. Mike Gawlik was proud of the way his team responded after dropping set one.

“I thought it was a pretty good sign of maturity and poise to rebound after a sloppy set one,” said Gawlik, the Chippewas' coach.

The first set featured a run by Eastern in which they scored seven straight to take a 15-6 lead. In road games against rivals, it can be an overwhelming task to try and overcome such a fast start by the opponent.

The Chippewas weren’t phased. 

Central Michigan was able to put the sloppy set behind to put together a run in set two. The Chippewas scored eight straight to take a 19-12 lead over the Eagles. 

When Eastern rallied to cut the Chippewa lead to just a single point, momentum looked to be on the side of the Eagles.

Again, the Chippewas didn’t fold. 

A service error by the Eagles proved to be the decisive point, ending the set in favor of Central Michigan.

Each time Eastern Michigan attempted to mount a rally, the Chippewas finished the job.

“Your ability to respond to your opponent’s run with a run of your own is a sign of a mature team,” Gawlik said. “We’re playing with a lot of confidence in close sets- and that’s something we’ve worked hard to earn.”

At the center of the Chippewa attack were two players working their way back from injury. Sophomores Savannah Thompson and Maddie Whitfield each made an impact offensively as they continue to work toward being fully healthy. 

Thompson led the team in both kills and digs in just her fourth game of the season. 

“Savannah was solid in three phases tonight – attacking, defense, and (she) helped pace our serve receive all night long,” said Gawlik of the sophomore from Thornton, Illinois. 

Whitfield took the court for the first time since Sept. 7 and contributed eight kills and four blocks.

“She rallied to have a pretty strong finish,” Gawlik noted of his 6-foot-3 middle blocker. 

Gawlik added that junior Lisbeth Rosario-Martinez was “a stud offensively.”

The setter duo of Grace Butler and Kendall Braate combined for 42 assists while reigning two-time defensive player of the week Megan Kern had 16 digs.

"Good teams find a way to change their fate mid-match with minor adjustments," Gawlik stated, "Gritty defense and patient attacking helped us win a match where we were struggling to find momentum early on."

With the win, Central Michigan improves to 13-2 and remains undefeated in the Mid-American Conference. 

Up next, the Chippewas return home for a three game homestand. Up first on the homestand is Kent State.

The match between the Chippewas and Golden Flashes is scheduled for 8 p.m. Oct. 5.