Volleyball ends season with sweep against Eastern Michigan

CMU Women's Volleyball in a group huddle before the start of their first set against Toledo Rockets on November 12.

In its final match of the 2021 season, Central Michigan volleyball secured a 3-0 (25-18, 25-22, 25-20) victory against Eastern Michigan on Wednesday in McGuirk Arena.

The Chippewas end the year 13-17 and 7-11 in the Mid-American Conference. Eastern Michigan completes the season at 9-20 and 4-14 in conference play. 

"I think in a game that elicits this much emotion from your team, and there was emotion even during the starting lineups, the gravity of finality," said head coach Mike Gawlik. "The only message we had in the locker room was, we have a choice to make."

With the sweep, CMU picks up its first home win against the Eagles since 2016. The Chippewas finished just outside of the top-six in the MAC and will miss the conference tournament.

"We wish it was a little different like going to the tournament, but being able to be in the moment with all the people I came in with is really special," said senior outside hitter Savannah Thompson. "Finishing off on a win, you don't want to end it any different."

How it happened

Up 15-7 at the midway point, CMU continued to put the ball on the floor with kills, eventually pushing the margin to eight. Eastern tried to rally back late, but Thompson shut the door with two clutch kills. Offensive success set the tone for the Chippewas as they locked up the stanza 25-18.

Eastern ratcheted up the intensity in the second, as the teams battled to a 10-10 tie. The score remained deadlocked until sophomore middle blocker Ely Medendorp buried a swing between the Eagles’ defense, sparking a three-point run for the Chippewas. Eastern fought back and cut the lead to one at multiple points down the stretch, but back-to-back attack errors allowed CMU to claim the second set.

A back-and-forth battle ensued in the third set resulting in a 16-16 tie, as the teams remained locked it. The Chippewas found their groove first and put together a five-point run, as freshman libero Aly Gurtiza picked up a service ace, pushing the score to 20-16.

Eastern took a timeout hoping to stop the onslaught and managed to make it a three-point game late. CMU capitalized on more Eagles mistakes and secured the match sweep with a 25-20 win in the third set. 

Key Performers

Thompson did it all for the Chippewas on Wednesday, finishing with 10 kills, 11 digs and two assists.

Senior outside hitter Sierra Gray finished close behind with eight kills and three service aces.

Senior setter Kendall Braate paced the CMU offense with 16 assists. Senior setter Grace Butler added 15 assists.

"I'm just thankful that I have teammates that gave it their all," Butler said. "Even though this game on paper didn't really mean anything, it meant a lot to us seniors and I thought everyone did an awesome job of playing gritty and trying to get the win."

Gurtiza led the Chippewas defensively with 15 digs. She also added two service aces and three assists.

Key Stats

CMU controlled the service line finishing with nine aces to one for Eastern Michigan.