CMU volleyball loses to Buffalo in five sets
Central Michigan volleyball and Buffalo came into Saturday’s matchup both riding win streaks and fighting for a spot in the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
The Bulls took the momentum late to defeat the Chippewas 3-2 (25-19, 24-26, 25-17, 16-25, 17-15).
CMU falls to 15-9 overall and 8-5 in MAC play.
“I think anytime you can force five sets on the road in our league, I think it shows that you're doing a lot of really nice things,” said head coach Mike Gawlik. “We started off the match, I thought pretty hot, we nailed a lot of our checkpoints in our game plan right from the get-go. I don't think it was a lack of focus, I think it was maybe a lack of counter-adjusting to kind of some of the changes that Buffalo was able to make after set one.
“... It was a pretty even match for us from start to finish, but we just got to kind of tighten the screws on a couple of key points and I think we find ourselves winning maybe even 3-0 if we steal set two, which was right there for the taking as well. So we try not to look at one point or one play. Really our consistency that we bring (and) our urgency to the game, I think is one of those things that we're going to want to address."
The Chippewas recorded a season-high 21 blocks with five players having over five blocks.
“I've never been a part of a match where my team has blocked 21 balls,” Gawlik said. “Our blocking when it gets going is really, really good and could be a point score for us. We were really leaning on that as we were trying to find some momentum offensively.”
Senior middle blocker Maddie Whitfield led the blocking effort with a season-high 12 blocks along with 10 kills.
Along with Whitfield, senior outside hitter Mallory Hernandez had a season-high in blocks with seven along with 11 kills. Junior middle blocker Elly Medendorp put up eight blocks along with seven kills.
Senior outside hitter Anna Erickson led on the offensive attack with 15 kills while also putting up six blocks for the Chippewas.
Freshman setter Claire Ammeraal set up the offense with 47 assists.
The Chippewas jumped out to a 15-7 lead to begin the first set off of a five-point run aided by an ace from freshman outside hitter Natalia Rejment. However, Buffalo shot right back, outscoring CMU 8-1 to get within one, 18-17. But the comeback effort wasn’t enough for the Bulls as the Chippewas won the set, 25-19.
Buffalo took an early 11-4 advantage in set two. Following a CMU timeout, the Chippewas regained some momentum and tied the set at 13. After exchanging points, Buffalo was able to take set two, 26-24, handing the Chippewas their first set loss in 14 sets.
Looking to rebound, the Chippewas took the 11-5 lead to begin set three. CMU extended their lead, 20-10, following a five-point run. The Bulls put together a three-point run to cut the deficit, but the Chippewas finished off set three, 25-17, grabbing a 2-1 lead in the match.
Buffalo took the early lead to begin set four, pulling ahead 19-15 over CMU. The Bulls finished off set four, 25-16, on a seven-point run to tie the match at two.
In set five, the Bulls pulled ahead 8-3 on a five-point run. However, the Chippewas went on a run of their own to get within two, 9-7. Buffalo secured the momentum again to pull ahead 14-8. Facing match point, the Chippewas produced a seven-point run to go ahead 15-14. But the Bulls secured three-straight points to take set five, 17-15.
"I'm proud of our ability to kind of just keep fighting and just keep going," Gawlik said "A lot of teams when you are down 14-8, just lose 15-8 and get on the bus. We forced them into two timeouts, we forced them to really start questioning what was happening, and almost flipped the match on its head and in set five in a set four and five that weren't really going our way. I think we could have won. I’m frustrated with that.”
The Chippewas will stay on the road when they face off against Northern Illinois in a two-game series on Friday at 7 p.m.