Mike Gawlik's words of wisdom helps CMU volleyball secure 3-1 victory at Buffalo


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. 

In the large, lively dome of Alumni Arena in Buffalo, New York, voices are quick to get lost, no matter how loud they may be. 

After head coach Mike Gawlik pulled his Chippewa volleyball team in for words of wisdom with a 24-18 point deficit in the third set against Buffalo, the voices on the court suddenly became crystal clear.

"Focus on 19," said each teammate before the ball went into play. The players were talking about focusing on the next point while UB had set point. 

Although the 19th point did not go in the Chippewas' favor, Gawlik's energy-shifting timeout lit a fire under the team, leading CMU to put its foot back on the gas and secure a 3-1 victory over Buffalo on Thursday in Mid-American Conference action.

Coming off a losing weekend sweep at Western Michigan, the Chippewas (4-5) wasted no time getting back into the groove and keeping their heads high, taking the first of the two-match series against Buffalo (0-9).

Gawlik said his team found more opportunities to give the setters more options for attack, which came from a higher quality of first contact and block-receives, both offensively and defensively. 

"We did a good job kind of giving our setters more options (Thursday) than we did last week against Western," Gawlik said. "We just had too many one-option digs where we had to go to one player, and that makes you easy to defend."

CMU stumbled in the third set of the match, but the Chippewas found themselves starting to give up the energy of being ahead as Buffalo had amassed a lead, but CMU still held a two-set lead over the Bulls. 

Gawlik pulled his team off the court for some words of wisdom and when they returned, it seemed as though the energy had entirely flipped.

"When I talked to the group about it, I was able to say, 'Hey, we're the ones that have the swag," Gawlik said. "We're up 2-0, we deserve to be up 2-0 because we outplayed them. The fact that they went on a short little run here shouldn't change who we are and how we deserve to play, because we have gained that advantage to be able to play aggressive with our backs not against the wall."

Gawlik's words of wisdom provided the Chippewas with the mentality boost they needed, and although they couldn't bounce back in the third set, they ran with the lead in the fourth and didn't look back until the match was won. 

"Our bench always does a good job of kind of keeping it light, keeping it fun and providing that energy," Gawlik said. "It's important for the people on the court to do things that are energy worthy, you have to make plays that we can get excited about, it's hard to get excited about nothing."

Impact Moments

CMU jumped out to a lead in the first set to establish momentum. While both teams shared the same amount of kills (13) and attack attempts (34), Central capitalized on its two service aces and fewer errors to secure the first set, 25-21. 

After a slow start to the second set, CMU took a slight lead over the Bulls, but was short-lived and both teams exchanged leads throughout the middle and end of the set. Tying up at 24, Buffalo found an opportunity to take the set, but the Chippewas denied the opportunity and took the set 27-25.

In the third, UB found its rhythm and CMU struggled, falling behind by as many as nine. CMU battled to come back slowly, but lost the third set 25-18.

Looking to close out the match, the Chippewas jumped out to a quick lead in the pivotal fourth set. UB kept the set close but could not withstand the CMU offense. The Chippewas took the 25-21 set victory to close out the opening match of the weekend.

Impact Players

Junior outside hitter Savannah Thompson led the Chippewas in kills with 16 and three service aces.

Senior middle blocker Lisbeth Rosario-Martinez followed with 12 and had a hitting percentage of .588.

Senior setter Grace Butler led in assists with 23. 

Freshman middle blocker Elly Medendorp secured four kills in the second match of her college career.

Up Next

The Chippewas and Bulls will battle again on Friday at 2 p.m. in Alumni Arena.