Volleyball finds redemption at EMU, wins in four sets

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

On March 16, the Chippewas' volleyball team left McGuirk Arena in defeat after a tough five-set match against Eastern Michigan, which claimed the final three sets for victory.

Just a week later, the Chippewas stepped onto their opponents' home court, determined for redemption. 

In four sets -- they found it.

CMU (11-9) over powered over EMU (7-11) to claim a four-set victory Tuesday at EMU's Convocation Center.

In the five-set loss on March 16, CMU struggled against EMU defensively, which enabled the Eagles to shut down the Chippewas' offense. 

Head coach Mike Gawlik made sure to utilize his team's defensive potential when CMU traveled to Ypsilanti for the rematch. In turn, the Chippewas came out on top.

"Really, we were still navigating their blocking -- they blocked 12 balls in the match -- that's still a lot in four sets; that's three a set," Gawlik said. "We answered the call by blocking 13."

CMU took a brief stumble in the second set, which allowed EMU to secure its only set of the match. The Eagles took off running in the third set, amounting a quick lead over the Chippewas, but Gawlik pulled his team aside only seven points in to slow the match down and avoid a costly mistake.

"I felt like two or three plays right out of that set, I didn't like the way we were going about our business," Gawlik said. "So I called a pretty early time out ... and just reminded them of some of the things that we talked about, that they talked about in our huddle in previous matches and whatnot. 

"When you can remind them of their own words about saying 'we are who we are and that doesn't change', ... I think I said in my post-game interview (with ESPN), I don't think we relinquished that control of the match from that time-out on, and I think there's power in those kind of moments when you know that you just made a different decision in the way you're going to go about what you're doing."

In that huddle, Gawlik said to his team the importance of being more 'proactive than reactive,' which would allow the Chippewas to seek out moments and positions to make plays.

The momentary break was enough for CMU to regain its focus and take a refreshed approach to the match, and the Chippewas stepped on the gas to maintain the aggressor in the next two sets for a victory.

Impact moments

Similar to the last time the Eagles and the Chippewas met, CMU stepped on the gas early in the first set to pull away from EMU. Several attack errors from the Chippewas and some stray kills allowed the Eagles to even things up, but the score continued in CMU's favor as the attacks continued and EMU gradually made more attack errors. Eventually, a scoring run for the Chippewas secured the first set 25-15. 

The second set opened with a number of exchanged leads, and the score remained tight for the first half. EMU went on a long scoring run, amassing a score that the Chippewas could not catch up to, and the match score tied up as the Eagles took the second set, 25-16.

EMU opened the third set with a scoring run, forcing CMU into a time out to snap the funk early, which was successful. The Chippewas followed immediately with a 7-0 run to pull ahead, which forced the Eagles into a time out of their own. EMU's attempt to snap the funk was not as successful as the Chippewas, who continued to pull away and win the set 25-19.

The Chippewas initiated offense early in the fourth set. While the Eagles stepped up to tie the score at 5-5, CMU refused to back down and continued hitting the gas pedal. While the Chippewas stumbled slightly with a number of attack errors, they maintained the lead and cleaned up the match with a final set victory at 25-16.

Impact players

Junior outside hitter Savannah Thompson totaled for 15 kills, 14 digs, one ace and a block assist. 

Freshman middle blocker Elly Medendorp amounted nine kills, hitting for .533 percent, and five blocks.

Senior middle blocker Lisbeth Rosario-Martinez hit for .333 percent with eight kills and added seven blocks, an ace, and an assist.

Up next

The Chippewas travel home for their final two matches of the season against Miami (Ohio) at 6 p.m. on March 26 in McGuirk Arena.