Defend McGuirk: CMU volleyball uses aggressive mindset as second half of season looms


The CMU volleyball team celebrates a point against Akron on Feb. 26 in McGuirk Arena.

Winning at home is important — in all sports. 

For CMU's volleyball team, winning at home might be one of the most important aspects of staying on the rails of the 2021 Mid-American Conference season. 

The Chippewas have been handed 11 opportunities to play — and win — in McGuirk Arena. 

Chippewa coach Mike Gawlik said after defeating Akron, 3-1, on Feb. 26 that the team adopted a motto to win at home after suffering a weekend sweep at home against Kent State. 

That phrase?

"Defend McGuirk." 

"We took our licks and got our butt kicked here (against Kent State)," Gawlik said. "One of the (ways) we have changed the focus is that we're a strong contender in this conference and teams come into our building to play us, not the other way around."

Volleyball — and all sports — makes it OK for a guest to beat the host. In fact, it's more memorable when it happens. 

Gawlik and the Chippewas don't want to have their guests feel the sense of having a chance to win in McGuirk.

"It's got to be a prideful thing," Gawlik said. "We represent the university, it's got to be something that we feel comfort in our home building and make it uncomfortable for our opponent to come play here."

Since the weekend sweep against the Golden Flashes on Jan. 28-29, the Chippewas have not lost a game in McGuirk Arena, giving them four wins in a row — a weekend sweep of Northern Illinois on Feb. 4-5 and a weekend sweep of Akron on Feb. 25-26. 

One game past the halfway point of the season, CMU has five matches left at home before the end of the season. Those games include two with MAC-leading Bowling Green (March 4-5), Eastern Michigan (March 16) and Miami (Ohio) to end the season (March 26-27). 

Thornton, Illinois junior outside hitter Savannah Thompson said adopting the mindset to play, and win, at home will serve the Chippewas well as the season heads into the second half, starting with a pivotal matchup against Bowling Green on March 4 in McGuirk Arena.

"("Defend McGuirk") has been working for us, so we're going to keep going with that," Thompson said. "It's a great matchup we're about to have (against Bowling Green) and it's great we're hosting them in our home gym." 

Thompson said the opportunity to beat the conference's best teams — including leader Bowling Green on March 4-5 — at home is always at the top of the priority list for CMU. 

Earning a weekend sweep? Even better. 

"It's rewarding when you can beat a team 2-0 on the weekend," Thompson said. "I love the fight you're able to play the same team again and prove that you're not gonna come in here and take a match from us.

"We didn't come in to beat them once, we came in to beat them twice."