Volleyball celebrates senior night, sweeps Northern Illinois
Central Michigan women's volleyball team had just seven wins in 2018.
In 2019, the Chippewas (20-4, 10-2 Mid-American Conference) have more than doubled that following their three-set victory over Northern Illinois on Saturday in McGuirk Arena.
CMU dominated NIU (8-18, 5-7 MAC) in almost every facet of the game in the sweep.
“I thought we played a really complete match,” said head coach Mike Gawlik. “We were dealt a little bit of a curveball today, with having to make a change to our lineup just based on injury.”
CMU won the sets, 25-12, 25-15, 25-16. The Chippewas finished with a team .375 hitting percentage while holding the Huskies to a team hitting percentage of .053, allowing the team to win each set by a substantial margin.
The Chippewas did so without sophomore setter Kendall Braate who has been named Co-MAC West Setter of the Week three times so for this season.
Fortunately for the Chippewas, fellow three time Co-MAC West Setter of the Week, junior Grace Butler, and the rest of the team were up to the task.
As the only setter for the night, Butler finished with 36 assists, eight digs, two aces and a kill.
The rest of the team stepped up including junior outside hitter Kalina Smith, who finished with a team-high 12 kills, seven of which came in the first set, and six digs.
Junior middle blocker Lisbeth Rosario-Martinez had 11 kills, a .500 hitting percentage and two digs for the night.
Sophomore outside hitter Savannah Thompson had a team-high 12 digs and added eight kills.
“I thought we had a lot of contributions tonight,” Gawlik said. “All five attackers tonight really did an elite level job of sharing the load offensively and that’s credit to Grace as well.”
The injury, in addition to a commanding lead following the first two sets, allowed Gawlik and his staff to get players involved that haven’t been for the majority of the season.
Redshirt freshman Lacey Juengel and junior Hannah Warners both came in and served multiple times.
Warners recorded two digs during her playing time. Freshman Kasey Firestone started the game for CMU and finished with three digs.
“They work tirelessly day after day and they don’t get the opportunity to be out on the court,” Gawlik said. “When you can get a couple of those kind of players out there to have a moment and kind of share in the moment and the productivity of the group on the floor, I think it’s a really special night.”
Unfortunately for Gawlik and company Braate’s timeline for a return to action is still unknown at this point.
Following the game, the rest of the night was dedicated to the senior class.
Allison Knoll, a middle blocker from Grand Haven, Michigan whose career was cut short because of injury was the first to be honored.
Middle blocker Jayla Wesley was next. Wesley has been a big part of the team this season despite missing the season due to injury. Her leadership and energy from the bench have been key to the success of the team according to many around the team.
Libero Megan Kern was the final senior honoree of the night. Kern leads the team with 446 digs this season. She has worked her way into fourth in program history with 1,645 career digs and is 217 away from third on the list.
”Meg’s wonderful, I‘ll always have a special place in my heart for Meg,” Gawlik said. “She and Jayla and Ally, who we recognized a little bit, were that first group that came in with a new coaching staff.”
The Chippewas next game is at 6 p.m. Nov. 7 against Eastern Michigan in McGuirk Arena. The game serves as the home finale for CMU before it hits the road for its final three games.
The Eagles (9-14, 4-7) are currently middle of the pack in the MAC West standings, but CMU still needs a win to attempt to earn the top seed in the MAC Tournament.