Volleyball rolls on opening day of St. Louis Tournament

Freshman Aly Gurtiza lunges for the pass during CMU's 3-1 win against Toledo Nov. 12 in McGuirk Arena.

Central Michigan volleyball continued its hot start to the season with a 3-0 sweep against Youngstown State (25-20, 25-17, 25-18) and a 3-1 win over Saint Thomas (26-28, 25-21, 25-20, 25-10) to open the St. Louis Tournament on Friday. 

With the back-to-back wins, the Chippewas improved to 4-1 on the season. 

Freshman outside hitter Natalia Rejment stepped up on the offensive end with 19 kills and five aces along with 13 digs. Senior Anna Erikson dominated both phases for CMU, recording 19 kills and four blocks. 

“We had a player for us, Mallory Hernandez, that was player of the week a week ago, and I thought in some ways (she) really struggled today to find her rhythm and get going, but in a team sport, you need other people to step up, and I thought our left sides (Rejment and Erickson) really did a nice job today,” Gawlik said. “I thought they did a really good job finding some kills for us where our middles and right sides were struggling a little bit to get some momentum.” 

After a slow start, Hernandez was able to bounce back against St. Thomas, recording 14 kills in game two. She ended the day with 20 kills and 15 digs.  

Game 1

Following a tight start to the first set, the Chippewas went on a four-point run to take a 14-9 lead. Youngstown St. was able to combat the run with one of their own, but the Chippewas weren’t phased and due to timely kills late, they pulled ahead 22-17. CMU was able to close out the first set, 25-20, on a kill from junior middle blocker Elly Medendorp. 

The Chippewas were able to continue their success into the second, going up 8-4. The Chippewas had total control of the second set and were able to finish it out 25-17 to go up 2-0 in the match. 

Youngstown St. came out firing in the third set with three kills in a row to pull ahead 3-0. The Chippewas would slowly erase the small lead, and pull ahead 10-6 following a four-point run aided by kills Hernandez and freshman setter Claire Ammeraal. The Chippewas went on a 3-0 run to end the set and complete the sweep. 

Game 2

Coming off the win, the Chippewas faced off against St Thomas. After being down 14-11 to start the first set, CMU went on an explosive six-point run to take a 17-14 lead. However, the Bobcats mounted a few quality runs to put them ahead 23-21. With the set coming to an end, CMU pushed ahead again. But, after a back-and-forth battle, St. Thomas was able to secure the first set, 28-26. 

The battle that began in the first, continued into the second set. Tied at 19, the Chippewas went on a 3-0 run, off of kills from Ammeraal and Rejment, to take the late 22-19 lead. CMU took three straight points to end the set 25-21 to tie the match at 1-1. 

St. Thomas jumped ahead quickly in the third set. However, the Chippewas cut into the St. Thomas’ lead on back-to-back aces from sophomore libero Aly Gurtiza. Down 15-14, CMU went on a 7-0 run to take a five-point advantage over St. Thomas. The Chippewas never let off the gas as they secured a 2-1. 

The Chippewas came out on fire to begin the fourth set, securing seven-straight points to take a 7-0 lead. St. Thomas was never able to recover. CMU once again ended the set on three-straight kills to take the set 25-10, and win the match 3-1. 

“The thing about our squad right now is I really like how we are responding after we drop a set,” Gawlik said. “I think that good teams find a way to separate one set from another, and I think that our ability to come out the next set, we won 25-21 and 25-20 with some good late service pressure and then in the final set really dominated from start to finish with a good service run from Kamryn Olson.”

Gurtiza led the way defensively with 37 digs along with 16 assists. Olson controlled the service line with seven aces 

CMU will look to continue its success in the St. Louis tournament on Saturday when they face off against tournament-host St. Louis at 7 p.m.