Chippewa volleyball falls to EMU in five-set battle
In an intense fifth set against Eastern Michigan, a proverbial fire ignited in outside hitter Savannah Thompson.
The junior from Thornton, Illinois made split-second sprints across the court to dig up attacks from her opponents and take powerful swings, helping keep the Chippewas alive.
Despite strong efforts from Thompson and her teammates, CMU (9-8) was defeated by EMU (7-8) Tuesday in McGuirk Arena in a five-set battle.
"As a team as a whole, we wanted to be aggressive -- we'd earned the right to be aggressive throughout the whole match -- and I think that we were the team that had the reigns on the match in the beginning," Thompson said. "We knew we could do that again if we pushed like that in the fifth set and it didn't go our way.
"Although I'm not happy that we lost the game, I am happy about how we stayed aggressive throughout the match, we just need to make sure that we don't celebrate too soon and we could've finished the night earlier in three (sets)."
Although the final three sets did not move in favor of a Chippewa victory, head coach Mike Gawlik said he was proud of his team's initiative on becoming early aggressors.
"I thought we had pretty complete control of the match early on through two sets," Gawlik said. "In two sets we were hitting .350 and really firing on all cylinders, Anna (Erickson), and Savannah and Sierra Gray were hitting really well, Megan Sivertsen was hitting really well. ... We were hitting well as a team and sharing the load."
Gawlik noted that although his team found aggressively all-around, what ultimately brought them down was their struggles in closing out the match while they were ahead.
"When we came out in the third set, we had the message in our heart of saying that we got to make sure that we're re-focused and we're re-establishing rhythm in the third set," Gawlik said. "Any team in our league is going to push back when they're down 0-2 and nobody's going to you know, give up."
"I thought we tried to gauge how well they were going to play, I thought in the third set we kind of came out and were hoping that they were going to play poorly. ... I felt like the message to our group was that we've got to make sure we're sprinting to the finish line, although we're playing really good volleyball, we have to be terminal."
The Chippewas opened the first set against Eastern with strong service and attacks, taking an early lead. Eastern Michigan used both timeouts early, taking the second with CMU ahead 14-6. The Eagles picked up steam in the second half of the set, but CMU maintained the offensive consistency to take the first set 25-16.
CMU entered the second set with the same offensive consistency, showcasing its defensive abilities with successful blocks and digging up Eagle opportunities to grab another quick lead. EMU kept the Chippewas on their toes with its attacks, but CMU persevered in having all-around pressure and won the second set 25-17.
In the third set, the Eagles took their first lead of the match over the Chippewas early. CMU kept EMU on its toes and caught up, but EMU continued pulling forward and forced the Chippewas into their first time-out of the match at 13-9. The offensive and defensive pressure the Eagles provided caused the Chippewas to stumble and EMU secured its first set of the series 25-14.
Determined to close the match, the Chippewas opened the fourth set with the same offensive and service pressure as the first set, adding early kills, aces and blocks to the board and establishing an early lead over EMU. A number of attack errors and successful EMU attacks accumulated in the second half, allowing the Eagles to gain on the Chippewas and eventually tie the score up at 19. EMU established a lead over CMU in the 20s, and CMU could not overtake the Eagles squared the match with a 25-22 fourth-set win.
In the final set, both teams opened with a tight score but the Eagles quickly got the ball rolling, forcing CMU into both timeouts; however, the Chippewas could not turn the tide and EMU won the set 15-7 to claim the match.
Thompson finished the match with 15 kills, 16 digs, an ace and a block assist.
Sophomore outside hitter Anna Erickson followed in kills with 15 and contributed 11 digs and a block assist for the Chippewas.
Senior setter Grace Butler led in assists with 27, also contributing 11 digs and a kill.
Freshman setter Kamryn Olson added 23 assists for a combined setter total of 50, with five kills, a block assist and an ace.
Senior middle blocker Lisbeth Rosario-Martinez amounted seven kills, two solo blocks, a block assist and four aces.
Junior libero Kendall Braate closed out the night with 21 digs, five assists and also contributed four aces to CMU's match total of 10.
The Chippewas will battle against Ball State (6-9) at 7 p.m. Friday in Worthen Arena.
The last time the Chippewas and the Cardinals faced off, CMU won 3-1 in McGuirk Arena but lost 3-1 in Worthen Arena later in the season.