Three Chippewa volleyball players earn conference honors


Sophomore outside hitter Kalina Smith attacks the ball against opponent Ohio University on Saturday, Sept. 22 in McGuirk Arena. 

Once again, a Central Michigan player has been named the Mid-American Conference West Division Defensive Player of the Week. 

It's the fourth week in a row that a Chippewa has won the award.

But it's a new face.

Junior outside hitter Kalina Smith earned her first defensive player of the week award after a successful weekend. It's her first time winning an award this season, and she keeps the award within the team for the second-straight week after senior libero Megan Kern took it home each of the last three weeks. 

Friday's win over Ball State saw Smith tally 26 digs to go along with 17 kills. The 26 digs were a career-high mark for her. In Saturday's thrilling five-set victory over Toledo, she contributed 19 more digs along with 10 kills.

Smith also tallied a career-high six blocks in the victory over the Rockets.

"Kalina really showed her growth as a player this season with her ability to defend at an elite level," said coach Mike Gawlik of the junior from Powell, Wyoming. "I can't remember the last time an outside hitter won defensive player of the week."

Not to be outdone, setters Kendall Braate and Grace Butler each earned a share the MAC West Division Setter of the Week award for the third time in four weeks. 

Butler, a junior from Hawthorn Woods, Illinois, tallied 55 digs while Braate, a sophomore from Byron Center, added 51.  

"Grace and Kendall set the tempo for our offense," Gawlik said, "We had five players in double-digit kills against Toledo, and that shows the confidence (the setters) have in each of their teammates."

The Chippewas swept yet another weekend and now stand at 16-2 on the season. They next take the court at 6 p.m. Friday when they travel to Bowling Green.