CMU defeats WMU in five sets on senior Day

CMU volleyball players celebrate after scoring the game-winning point against Western Michigan Saturday, Nov. 12 in McGuirk Arena.

With the Mid-American Conference tournament in sight, aemotions were running high in McGuirk Arena on Saturday as the rivalry between Western Michigan and Central Michigan volleyball came down to a fifth set. 

In her possibly last match in McGuirk Arena, senior outside hitter Anna Erickson sealed the win for the Chippewas with a block to defeat WMU 3-2 (25-18, 22-25, 25-17, 16-25, 15-12).

“I think I was crying before it landed, to be honest,” Erickson said. “I was already trying to hold back my tears during the last couple of points and then when Aly (Gurtiza) got that ace and we all cheered, I was getting emotional, and as soon as I blocked that… instant tears.”

With the win, the Chippewas improve to 18-10 and 11-6 in conference play to secure their spot in the MAC tournament.

“I really just enjoy watching our team celebrate those moments, because of what goes into those moments,” Gawlik said. “There's nothing like the joy of that moment of breaking through in a big game, emotional game, a rivalry game, all these things, (and) senior weekend. I just think it all kind of comes to a head at one point and you could just see the outpouring of emotion from people like our seniors and not even just our seniors but our team because of what our seniors meant to them.” 

The Chippewa defense ended the night with 100 digs and 15 blocks. Five CMU players had 10 or more digs with sophomore libero Aly Gurtiza leading the charge with 31. 

“That’s a team effort that says ‘hey, we are going to defend well,’” Gawlik said. “Not one player has to do everything and dig balls… I think they were a really good defensive team as well. But I thought we were just a little bit more complete tonight.” 

Junior middle blocker Elly Medendorp led the blocking effort with nine blocks along with nine kills. 

Senior outside hitter Mallory Hernandez stepped up in the high-pressure weekend, having two matches with 20 plus kills. She ended night two with 21 kills along with six blocks. 

“I think everyone else was just playing so well,” Hernandez said. “Digs were great. Everything was great, Claire (Ammeraal's) sets were amazing. I think I couldn't have done it without them. So that was a big part of it.” 

Senior middle blocker Maddie Whitfield ended the match with 13 kills and two blocks.

“I think we all just played as a team and played together,” Whitfield said. “And overall made a good environment. It was fun and easy to play around everyone because everyone was motivating each other, and it was just a great crowd and really sent a statement sweeping our rivals over the weekend.”

With the energy high in McGuirk Arena, the Chippewas jumped out to a 7-2 lead. However, looking to silence the crowd, WMU went on a took a 9-8 lead. Back-to-back kills from Hernandez jump-started a six-point run for CMU and secured the lead back, 18-15. The Chippewas took set one, 25-18, off of a three-point run. 

The Broncos took a 19-15 lead in set two, leading to a CMU timeout. Following the timeout, Hernandez delivered back-to-back kills to start a 5-1 run that tied the set at 20. However, the Broncos were able to finish off set two, 25-22, to tie the match at one. 

Hernandez started set three on fire with four kills and two blocks, propelling the Chippewas to an 8-1 lead. The Broncos came right back outscoring the Chippewas to get within three 17-14. WMU’s comeback was cut short as CMU won the set 25-17. 

Looking to push the match to a set five, WMU jumped out to an 18-12 lead in set four. The Broncos were able to take the set, 25-16, to tie the match at two and force a set five. 

“The messaging I think going into set five is very similar to any set five (and) that is we got to forget sets one through four at that point, the good and the bad,” Gawlik said. “And really be the aggressors from start to finish. We refocused our conversation to the conversation we had in the locker room before the match of playing with passion and playing with joy and just playing for each other and playing to win but also putting ourselves in a position to just play with courage and bravery in some big moments.” 

Back-to-back points from Erickson got the Chippewas the 5-3 lead to begin set five. WMU stormed back, but Whitfield secured back-to-back kills to give CMU the 10-8 lead. An ace from Gurtiza and a block from Erickson gave secured the 15-12 victory, as the Chippewas completed their second fifth-set win of the weekend. 

The Chippewas end regular season play in Ypsilanti when they face Eastern Michigan on Wednesday at 6 p.m.