Volleyball defeated by Bowling Green in MAC Tournament semifinal match


Central Michigan outside hitter Savannah Thompson digs the ball against Western Michigan Oct. 31 at McGuirk Arena.

BOWLING GREEN, Ohio – Senior libero Megan Kern and junior defensive specialist Hannah Warners walked out of the locker room together. Both wore maroon Adidas jackets with somber expressions that matched their Central Michigan volleyball teammates.

The Chippewas lost in the Mid-American Tournament semifinal 3-1 to host Bowling Green on Nov. 23 at the Stroh Center, failing to get out of a two-set hole despite an effort to claw back into the match. 

Central Michigan made nine attack errors and hit .024 in the opening set, allowing the Falcons to secure a 25-14 victory. Outside hitters Savannah Thompson and Kalina Smith put good swings together but were unable to find gaps in the stout Bowling Green defense. Both had negative hitting percentages after set one.

“I think in set one it was a little bit of jitters,” said coach Mike Gawlik. “Being in the tournament, you know, being in the semifinals.”

Central Michigan began to turn it around in set two, lessening its errors while beginning to figure out the Bowling Green block. 

Sophomores Sierra Gray and Megan Sivertsen combined for four kills off the bench, providing a spark that perked up the offense. 

Although the Chippewas dropped set two, 25-22, the offensive improvement gave them momentum heading into set three. 

An offensive spurt highlighted by Kern’s back-to-back aces gave the Chippewas a lead in the third set that wasn't relinquished. Junior middle blocker Lisbeth Rosario-Martinez killed six balls in the third set alone, and the Chippewas claimed the set 25-22. 

The fourth set was a similar battle – both teams going back and forth. 

The Chippewas took a 17-13 lead, but Bowling Green scored six straight following a timeout to take a 19-17 lead. After the teams traded points, Bowling Green scored four of the final five points to take the match and end the Chippewas’ MAC title hopes.

“I do think that we were aggressive, and I do think that we fought back,” Gawlik said. “We wanted to be aggressive. We knew that was the way we were going to claw back into the match, and I thought we did that.” 

The team finished with an uncharacteristic 36 attack errors. 

Smith led the team with 11 kills, while Rosario-Martinez and freshman Anna Erickson each had nine. Kern tied a season-high with four aces and contributed 30 digs. Sophomore setter Kendall Braate was a perfect 4-for-4 on hitting attempts and combined with junior counterpart Grace Butler for 39 assists. 

“There’s just a small difference separating the better teams from each other,” Gawlik said. “I think we were just on the wrong side of the coin tonight.”

The Falcons finished with 16 blocks and limited the Chippewas to just a .082 hitting percentage. The last time these teams met, the Chippewas swept all three sets, although each set was within three points.

Saturday night, however, CMU could not overcome the strength of the Falcon block. 

“I thought Bowling Green blocked incredibly well,” Gawlik said. “I don’t think that’s our best showing offensively but we just gave away a few too many points down the stretch.”

The loss dropped the Chippewas to 21-8. Their postseason hopes rely on an at-large bid to either the NCAA or NIVC Tournament.