CMU volleyball defeats NIU in four sets


Hopkins, MINN junior Anna Erikson goes up for a hit in the game against Bowling Green on Oct. 14 at McGuirk Arena.

Central Michigan volleyball (16-9, 9-5) found itself down 22-14 in the fourth set of Friday's matchup against Northern Illinois (14-9, 7-7).

However the Chippewas didn’t give up and outscored the Huskies 12-2 in the final moments of the set to take the match 3-1 (27-25, 25-18, 21-25, 26-24).

“We need to pick a fight, and we need to push back, and we can't wait any longer,” said head coach Mike Gawlik. “I referenced our match against Buffalo last weekend where our backs were against the wall at 14-8 before we really kind of went into this mode of it's do or die. And I said ‘what are we waiting for to kind of flip into that kind of mode.’ 

“I thought we were just a little bit timid in that fourth set, just kind of looking at the ground, not looking at each other hoping somebody else would make plays, hoping that what we had done was enough. Those are the things that we needed to kind of push some buttons of some athletes to let loose and be a lot more aggressive, be a lot more free. And go take it if we want it, not wait for them to give it to us because nobody's going to give us anything in this league.”

Freshman setter Claire Ammeraal completed a triple-double with 10 kills, 36 assists, and a career-high 21 digs. It was the second triple-double of the season for Ammeraal. 

“Claire (Ammeraal) offensively was really tremendous tonight,” Gawlik said. “We've been working a lot with her and Stef Jankiewicz, our assistant coach has been working with her a lot on her shot selection. I thought she was really choosing some pivotal moments to dump and it bolstered her decision to dump and sometimes her decision not to attack and go with an attacker really had Northern Illinois jumping out of their shoes sometimes and created really good opportunities for her attacker.”

Senior outside hitter Anna Erickson recorded a double-double in the match with 14 kills and 16 digs. 

Senior Mallory Hernandez led the offensive effort with 15 kills along with three blocks. 

It was an all-out defensive effort for the Chippewas backcourt as they dug 88 balls with sophomore libero Aly Gurtiza ending the night with 24. 

“I thought it was a really well-played defensive match on both sides of the ball,” Gawlik said. “I thought we dug a lot of balls by a lot of different people. I think Northern Illinois does a really nice job… I thought there were times where we took a big swing, took the swing we wanted, it's aggressive. And that ball came back. And I'm sure that Northern could say the same thing about our defensive efforts. So it was a really fun match to watch in that regard from two of the top defensive teams in the league, I think.”

Following a Chippewa lead to begin the first set, the Huskies went on a five-point run to take the 13-12 advantage, leading to a CMU timeout. Following the timeout, a kill from Erickson started a four-point run for the Chippewas to retake the lead, 16-13. The Huskies regained the lead, but facing set point CMU went on a run to finish off set one, 27-25.

“I think it kind of sets the tone for the rest of the match,” Gawlik said. “Whenever you're playing on the road, and you can take your opening set, you can hush the building down a little bit. And make the switch feeling confident. So our ability to kind of steal that one down 19-23, I think is a commentary on our ability to never give up and kind of just kind of play that to the final whistle.” 

With the momentum on their side, the Chippewas jumped out to the 11-4 lead. Back-to-back kills from Ammeraal helped CMU extend its lead to eight, 13-5. The Chippewas took set two, 25-18, off of a kill from Erickson to go up 2-0. 

After trading points to begin the third set, the Chippewas went on a 5-1 run to take the small 16-13 lead. However, the Huskies shot right back taking a 21-17 lead. The Chippewas fought back with three-straight points to get within one. But NIU took set three off of a 4-1 run, sending the match to a fourth set. 

With the Huskies in control with a 22-14 lead in the fourth, the Chippewas outscored NIU 9-1 to tie the set at 23. Tied at 24, Hernandez stepped up with back-to-back points to take the match. 

“I thought we played some hesitant volleyball at times and needed to be reminded of who we are and kind of believe again,” Gawlik said. “In some ways, I thought down the stretch in set three and early in set four, we were just playing a little bit timid and a little bit frantic and we needed to switch our mentality and get back to taking points from them, as opposed to hoping they give them to us. I think that our ability to be able to find that within a match is the skill that we're going to need to go where we want to go because I think really great teams can find ways within a match to change their fate.” 

The Chippewas will face off against NIU again on Saturday at 3 p.m.