Chippewa volleyball drops series at Western Michigan

CMU's volleyball team huddles around head coach Mike Gawlik during the team's Jan. 29 game against Kent State in McGuirk Arena.

Running into a buzzsaw of an arch rival was dangerous for the Chippewa volleyball team this weekend.

After its loss to Western Michigan on Thursday, CMU fought to try and split the series, but dropped another 3-1 match Friday at Read Fieldhouse in Kalamazoo.

Although the Chippewas (3-5) lost their second match against the Broncos (6-2), head coach Mike Gawlik felt his team's efforts were valiant and well-fought, despite the adjustments they had been forced to make on short notice. 

"We have some depth on our team that we can tap into, but we had to share the load a little bit," Gawlik said. "I know we didn't win, but I thought our fight was really good. I thought our execution needed to be better, but I really liked the grit that we came out with as a team."

With the halfway point of the season approaching, Gawlik's team has found itself needing to make many adjustments due to injury so far this season.

"The lack of preparation we had over break and last semester, some of these injuries are acute things that just pop up," Gawlik said. " ... Some of those you can prevent, and some of those are a bad break. But, the game goes on, and I feel like -- we said in our gym -- we don't have any excuses."

Impact moments

Similar to Thursday's match against the Broncos, CMU found itself struggling to find optimal attacking opportunities throughout the first two sets and could not find their rhythm until the third set.

The Chippewas were able to take a consistent lead over the Broncos throughout the beginning of the first set, but the lead was eventually taken over by WMU, which found ways to create holes in CMU's defense quickly. Despite finding some of the attacking opportunities the Chippewas had been searching for, WMU secured the first set 25-19.

CMU's struggles continued into the second set as it gave up an early lead to WMU. Consistently trailing by three points throughout the set, CMU eventually let WMU's attacks get too far away from itself and the Chippewas fell into a 10-point deficit. The Chippewas went on a 9-4 run toward the end of the second, but the Broncos won the set, 25-19.

In the third set, both teams exchanged early points and battled back-and-forth throughout the set. Both teams tied up at set point, looking for the two-point edge to win. The Chippewas, who needed to take this set to stay in the match, found a way to take the set 26-24.

Now in the same situation they found themselves in Thursday, the Chippewas aimed to build momentum from the win in the third set, but WMU's offense caused the visitors problems and pushed the Broncos out to a quick lead. Despite exchanging scoring runs to catch up as the set progressed, the Chippewas could not overtake the Broncos and finished the match in the fourth set at 25-18.

Impact players

Throughout the match, CMU was able to continue to capitalize on redshirt sophomore outside hitter Lacey Juengel and freshman outside hitter Alyssa Griner's challenging serves to throw off the Broncos' receiving, and they were both able to pick up some points and cause errors on WMU's behalf. 

Junior outside hitter Savannah Thompson led the Chippewas in kills with 13. 

Junior outside hitter Sierra Gray followed with eight. 

Freshman setter Kamryn Olson had 20 assists. 

Senior middle blocker Lisbeth Rosario-Martinez had three service aces and Olson had two. 

Up next

The Chippewas are next set to travel to Buffalo. CMU is slated to take on the Bulls at 6 p.m. on Feb. 19 at Alumni Arena in Buffalo, New York. In the only meeting in 2019, UB escaped McGuirk Arena with a 3-2 win.