CMU volleyball split final day of Bulldog Brawl
Following a loss against Notre Dame (3-0) on day one of the Bulldog Brawl, Central Michigan volleyball looked to bounce back on day two.
On the second day of the tournament, the Chippewas fell to a red hot Missouri in a 3-0 sweep (23-25, 20-25, 22-25), but were able to finish the weekend on a high note when they defeated Butler in a sweep of their own (25-14, 25-16, 25-18). CMU moves to 7-4 on the season.
“I think one of the things coming out of Notre Dame and Missouri (that) we had talked about in the locker room is what is our identity,” said head coach Mike Gawlik. “...I think we got back to trying to redefine that with our group and say the scoreboard doesn’t dictate how we play, the scoreboard dictates whether we win or lose, but there is more to it than that. I think our messaging after going down 2-0 was the things that make us special, we can’t forget about those.”
The left side hitters, freshman Natalia Rejment and senior Anna Erickson, led the offensive effort for the Chippewas combining for 19 kills in the win against Butler. Erickson ended day two with 20 kills while Rejment had 15 kills along with 14 digs.
“I thought it was a choice that they made to be aggressive from the get go,” Gawlik said. “That is sometimes not easy for a player because they don’t want to make errors, but we really established the outside force early on in the match, and I thought that really opened up things for our right side and Mallory (Hernandez).”
Senior outside hitter Mallory Hernandez continued her explosive start to the season with 17 kills and four blocks in the two-game stretch.
Missouri came into the match looking to go 3-0 on the weekend, while the Chippewas were looking for their first win of the tournament.
After a tight battle to begin the first set, the Tigers went on a 3-0 run to go up 15-11, creating the biggest lead of the set. However, CMU took control back to pull ahead 23-22, aided by timely kills from the offensive front row. When the Chippewas seemingly had the momentum, Missouri strung together a three-point run to take the set 25-23.
The Tigers took control of the second set following a four-point run that included back-to-back aces. The Chippewas weren’t done yet and cut the Tiger deficit to five. But Missouri had the game in control, closed out set two, 25-20, to go up 2-0.
Looking to avoid their second-straight sweep of the weekend, the Chippewas went on a few small runs to put them up 15-11. With CMU up 22-20, Missouri was able to come back and go on a five-point run to take the set and a sweep win.
“I thought although we played Missouri tough, a Power 5 opponent,” Gawlik said. “I just thought we had to be a little bit better on some key plays to close it out and win sets. Although we dropped the match 3-0 this morning I thought we were actually fairly close in most of those sets.”
After back-to-back losses, the last test of the weekend for CMU came from the Butler Bulldogs.
The Chippewas came out on fire in the first set pulling ahead 4-0, led by two kills from Rejment. CMU kept its foot on the gas and finished off set one, 25-14. Rejment led the team in the first set with five kills.
To start set two, the Bulldogs went on a 5-0 run. But, the Chippewas came right back with a 7-0 run that included back-to-back blocks from senior middle blocker Maddie Whitfield to push them ahead 16-10. CMU was able to continue their consistent lead throughout the second set, and take the set 25-16.
Falling behind to start the third set, the Chippewas maintained a 7-0 run to take an 8-3 lead. The Bulldogs got themselves back into the set, but then Whitfield came alive in the middle of the third set with two blocks and a kill to help give CMU the sweep over Butler.
“This was our most challenging weekend,” Gawlik said. “And I know we lost two matches, but we wanted to be playing teams that help us get ready to face off against MAC competition.
“In particular, we face off against Ball State in our building next weekend, and they have set themselves apart as being a pretty elite team in our conference over the last two years. And we wanted to make sure that the weekend before we played them and Toledo, that we are able to know what we are and test ourselves against some really good athletes.”
CMU will begin Mid-American Conference play with their home opener against Ball State on Friday at 6 p.m.