CMU volleyball tries to find rhythm against Kent State, fall short in sweep


Saline junior middle blocker Maddie Whitfield (right, No. 7) and Hopkins, Minnesota sophomore outside hitter Anna Erickson (left, No. 9) attempt to block a lofted ball against Kent State on Jan. 28 in McGuirk Arena. The Golden Flashes defeated CMU 3-0. 

Savannah Thompson watched as the ball left her palm and descended to the floor of the opposing side of the court. Triumphant, she and her teammates celebrated, despite being in an 11-point deficit to Kent State in the second set of the match. 

The point from Thompson, a junior outside hitter for CMU's volleyball team, lit a fire under her teammates, providing the kickstart they needed to nail down another eight points to try and close the gap.

However, it was too late in the set for the Chippewas (1-2) to overtake Kent State (1-0), which went on to win the second set 25-17. The Golden Flashes swept CMU's volleyball team in McGuirk Arena on Thursday, giving the Chippewas back-to-back losses.

Similar to the match at Ohio on Jan. 23, CMU found its struggles in the early parts of each set, allowing Kent State to take the lead quickly. While CMU had the experience and depth to throw down strong offense onto the Golden Flashes, the Chippewas struggled to find a rhythm. 

Despite not having played prior to Thursday, Kent State found its groove immediately and took a lead over Central in the first set. The Chippewas were able to trail closely behind for the remainder of the set, but it was not enough and Kent State secured the first set 25-21. The Chippewas continued to trail further behind with the other two sets, unable to catch up to the Golden Flashes' strong starts. KSU won the second set 25-17 and the third set 25-15.

Head coach Mike Gawlik said that the team struggled on all areas, but the main struggle was mostly on defense, which cost CMU several opportunities offensively.

"Collectively, we have to better than individuals, and I thought at times we just got caught being in our silos on the court," Gawlik said. "Our chemistry on the court has to be better."

Most of Gawlik's team are returning players from the team which won the Mid-American Conference West Division in 2019 and was tabbed to do so again this year, allowing depth and experience for the rotation, but struggled to put their chemistry together against KSU.

"The fit that was the fit last year doesn't necessarily mean it's the exact same fit this year, and I feel like people grow and they transform as players, and we've got to find out what is the best fit for this team in 2021 here," Gawlik said. "We've hit a little bit of a slide here, it's too early to hit a panic button, but with 22 matches in the conference schedule, we're fine, (but) we have to right the ship."

Keys to the match

As the Chippewas returned to their home court, they had no idea what to expect of Kent State, as their season opener against Eastern Michigan was cancelled due to COVID-19 issues at EMU. Although it was their first match of the season, the Golden Flashes warmed up and found their groove immediately, while CMU struggled to find its own.

Throughout the match, CMU struggled to find a hole in Kent State's defenses, being met with multiple blocks that went in the visiting team's favor. Statistics wise, Kent State led CMU in attacks, assists, blocks and hitting percentage across all set. In the third set, Kent State had 26.5 hitting percentage, while CMU only had 21 percent.

During the second set, the Chippewas found a point of clarity against Kent State, which allowed them to make an attempt at a comeback. CMU found a way through Kent State's defense, allowing Thompson, senior outside hitter Kalina Smith and senior middle blocker Lisbeth Rosario-Martinez to finish emphatic kills in effort to turn the match around. 

The energized efforts from CMU turned a 20-8 deficit to 23-17. Despite the effort to come back it was a bit too late for CMU and Kent State take the last two points of set two before earning the win in the third set to sweep the match.

Impact players

Thompson led CMU in kills with a total of nine for the match. 

Sophomore outside hitter Anna Erickson, Senior middle blocker Lisbeth Rosario-Martinez and Smith followed close behind, each with seven.

Senior setter Grace Butler and freshman setter Kamryn Olson each had 16 assists. 

Up next

The Chippewas don't have much time to dwell on the loss. CMU and Kent State will take the floor again at 2 p.m. Friday in McGuirk Arena.