Chippewa volleyball defeats Northern Illinois 3-1 to even record

The volleyball team broke its losing streak with a 3-2 win over Northern Illinois, Feb. 4 at McGuirk Arena.
Staff reporter Katherine Schultz breaks down CMU's 3-1 victory over Northern Illinois on Feb. 5 in McGuirk Arena.  Katherine Schultz

Not even 24 hours after their first home court victory of the season, the Chippewas' volleyball team returned to McGuirk Arena to do it again. 

CMU found its footing quickly against Northern Illinois, which gave the host an early advantage heading toward a 3-1 win Friday in McGuirk Arena. 

This second consecutive win for the Chippewas (3-3) allowed them to even out their MAC record and are now 3-3 in the conference. CMU snapped its three-game loss streak against NIU (1-5) on Thursday for its first home-court win.

Head coach Mike Gawlik said that he was pleased with the win and the improvements to his team's performance this week. 

"Great teams kind of share the load," Gawlik said. "Not everybody's going to have their best match every night, but I thought our block and Savannah (Thompson) and our defense kind of really stepped up today to kind of pick up some areas that we struggled."

Junior outside hitter Savannah Thompson, who led CMU with 19 kills, appreciated the growth she and her team have shown on and off the court since the beginning of the season.

"I think the most exciting thing is that that's not the best that we have yet so I think there's room to grow still and that's really exciting," Thompson said. "I think it uplifts us going into a big rival week next week, and I'm really proud of how everyone played tonight, it was a great team win."

Impact moments

Fresh off of a 3-2 victory on Thursday where the Chippewa offensive proved strong against NIU, CMU brought the same energy to the court in the first set and pulled the score away from the Huskies immediately. Thompson threw down 8 kills in the first set alone to help the Chippewas take the first set 25-14. 

CMU looked to run with the lead they earned in the first set, and they did exactly that. Multiple players contributed to the Chippewas' offense in the second set and they quickly overpassed the Huskies again, winning the second set 25-18. 

While in a 2 set advantage and looking to make the sweep, CMU found some struggles in the beginning of the third set. The Huskies made their way through the Chippewas' defenses and amassed as much as a six point lead. Determined, CMU fought its way back and tied up the score at 15 points, forcing the Huskies into a time out.

As match point for CMU approached, both teams fought intensely with lengthy rallies and a tight score. A two-point lead at 20-18 sent NIU into another timeout in hopes of keeping the game going, and the score would go on to tie at 22. An intense fight for the final points placed NIU at set point, and the Huskies capitalized, winning the third set 25-23. 

With both teams in the groove in the fourth set, the score tightened up and neither team could find more than a two-point advantage. CMU found an opportunity to pull away and find a four-point lead at 18-14, but NIU went on a 6-1 run that forced the Chippewas into a timeout, trailing 20-19.

After a sort of pep talk from Gawlik, CMU went on a six-point run of its own to win the fourth set 25-20 and win the match 3-1. 

Impact players 

Junior outside hitter Savannah Thompson led the Chippewas in kills with 19.

Senior middle blocker Maddie Whitfield and sophomore outside hitter Anna Erickson each followed with eight.

Senior defensive specialist Hannah Warners started for a second game as libero and had 21 digs.

Senior middle blocker Lisbeth Rosario-Martinez provided two aces for CMU. 

Freshman outside hitter Alyssa Griner made her career debut and added an ace to the stats on her first play.

Up next

The Chippewas hit the road to battle against Western Michigan at 7 p.m. on Feb. 11 in Read Fieldhouse. CMU won both times in 2019, 3-0 in Kalamazoo and 3-1 in McGuirk Arena.