Chippewa volleyball squeaks past Akron in intense five set match
With the ball in the air in front of her, Maddie Whitfield found herself with the opportunity to swipe through Akron's defenses and win the match.
Naturally, she took it.
Whitfield, a junior middle blocker for CMU's volleyball team, among her teammates, was a well-rounded player with many contributions to CMU's five-set victory over Akron on Thursday in McGuirk Arena.
Head coach Mike Gawlik praised Whitfield's contributions against Akron after finding some struggles in previous weeks.
"Her response to not getting the start against Buffalo in night two really lit a fire under her to find a way to be more productive and accountable to some of the little things we've been talking about," Gawlik said. "She had a great week of practice and her ability to come out and contribute 11 kills in the middle is a wonderful rebound ... I liked her rebound from what I felt was a challenging couple of weeks that she had played back-to-back."
After having a strong start which led to a two set lead over the Zips, CMU stumbled and ended up dropping the third and fourth sets to Akron. Gawlik said that one of Akron's formidable qualities is their serves, and the Zips amped up their serving strength in the final three sets to put more pressure on his team's front line, but in the end the Chippewas found a way to move around it and seal the win.
"When a team lets one slip through their fingers, especially when its a set to try and close out a match, it can be kind of disheartening," Gawlik said. "I really liked our resolve in the huddle to kind of flush that and start over. Set five is one of those things that doesn't really matter how you've played up until that point. You've got to focus in set five."
The Chippewas sought a quick start against Akron and found it, quickly establishing a lead. Akron found itself struggling to find an offensive edge to get through CMU's defenses and fell short. Out of 40 attempted attacks, the Zips found themselves with 10 kills and a hitting percentage of .025 in the first set. The Chippewas finished 15 kills and hit for .412 percent in the first set, leading them to a 25-15 set victory.
To start the second set, Akron was able to clean up its attacks and play a closer set than the first, attaining a hitting percentage of .114 to CMU's .225 for the second set. However, throughout the second set, the Chippewas had three service aces and had three blocks to Akron's one, allowing CMU to take the second set 25-18.
CMU took an early lead over Akron in the third set, but was quickly overtaken by the Zips. With a 9-9 tie Akron pushed ahead and didn't look back in the set. Leading in blocks (three) aces (three) and hitting percentage at .190, the Zips took their first set of the match 25-20.
The Chippewas looked to regain control and close out the match in the fourth set and attained an early lead again. After tying up at 15, Akron took the reigns and overtook CMU until the very end of the set. CMU won the race to match point, but the Zips refused to give in and both teams entered a deuce. Akron came out on top at 28-26 over the Chippewas, sending the match to a fifth set.
In the pivotal fifth set, the energy in McGuirk Arena became tense. Both the Chippewas and the Zips fought for a close score early on, but CMU hit the ground running and closed out the match, 15-9.
In all, 12 Chippewas found themselves on the court tonight, each playing a substantial role to their victory over Akron.
Whitfield attained 11 kills out of 16 attempts, leaving her at a .562 hitting percentage for the evening. She totaled for four blocks, three solo and one assist.
Junior outside hitter Savannah Thompson led in kills with 22, had three blocks, 18 digs and an ace.
Freshman setter Kamryn Olson had eight kills, 25 assists, 21 digs and an ace.
Freshman middle blocker Elly Medendorp had five kills and one block.
Senior middle blocker Lisbeth Rosario-Martinez, junior defensive specialist Kendall Braate, freshman defensive specialist Ashley Alford and freshman outside hitter Alyssa Griner each had an ace.
The Chippewas and the Zips will face off again at 2 p.m. Friday in McGuirk Arena.