CMU volleyball loses to Ball State in MAC Semi-Final
Battling a raucous Ball State home-crowd, Central Michigan volleyball went into the second round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament on Monday, looking to upset the tournament's top seed.
After winning the first set, the Chippewas couldn’t keep the momentum going and dropped three-straight sets, losing in the semifinal, 3-1 (25-23, 18-25, 23-25, 22-25).
“We said we wanted to sacrifice the outcome,” said head coach Mike Gawlik. “And we felt like if we played really, really well we'd put ourselves in a position to win, and I felt like that was true. And we didn't win. But I thought we were in a position to win.
“I think that we had some big plays from players on our team. And we had some people step up in some big moments, and I'm sure as we look at video, there's gonna be moments that we want to grow from and learn from and be better at next time. But I didn't think it was because we backed down, and I didn't think it was because we were scared of the moment.”
Senior outside hitter Mallory Hernandez led the charge for the Chippewas with 18 kills on a .304 hitting percentage along with two blocks.
On the defensive end, junior middle blocker Elly Medendorp led with seven blocks and 10 kills.
Freshman setter Claire Ammeraal and senior Anna Erickson ended with a double-double. Ammeraal put up 46 assists, 14 digs, and five kills while Erickson recorded 11 kills and 11 digs.
With the Cardinals up in the first set, Hernandez got back-to-back kills that jump-started a 7-2 run to give the Chippewas the 18-14 lead. However, Ball State went on a run of its own following a timeout to get within one, 19-18. Tied at 22, kills from Hernandez and Ammeraal got CMU to match point 24-22 and silenced the home fans. Two plays later, Erickson came up with a kill to seal the set one victory for the Chippewas, 25-23.
“I thought that we put ourselves in a pretty good spot,” Gawlik said. “I thought the first set was one of the better sets that we had played all year from our standpoint, their standpoint, I just thought it was really clean on both sides.”
The Cardinals took the 21-13 lead in set two, forcing a CMU timeout. Following the timeout, the Chippewas went on a 3-0 run, pulling within five of Ball State, 21-16. However, the comeback effort wasn’t enough as Ball State took set two, 25-18, to tie the match at one.
After trading points to begin set three, the Chippewas went on a four-point run, grabbing an 18-14 lead. The Cardinals came right back to take a 22-19 lead. Following a Ball State challenge that was overturned, the Chippewas dropped set two, 25-23, as the Cardinals took a 2-1 lead in the match.
“I'd love to see what was so convincing that we overturned a call with no touch there,” Gawlik said. “But nevertheless, that one didn’t go our way.”
The Cardinals took an early 10-7 lead in the fourth set. Following a timeout, the Chippewas rallied back to grab an 11-10 advantage. Tied at 20, the Cardinals pushed their lead to two, forcing a CMU timeout. After the timeout, the Chippewas fought back to get within one of the Cardinals, but Ball State came right back to secure the fourth set, 25-22, and take the match 3-1.
“We just maybe didn't make one or two plays down the stretch that could flip maybe set three or four in our favor,” Gawlik said. “But I'm proud of the group, I think we've been playing some really good ball. It stings to bow out of the tournament that you think that you can win. And I do think we could have beaten Ball State. I think if we played them three times, I think we win two times. That's kind of what happened this year. But I think that I'm really proud of the way that we went after it.”
With the loss in the semi-final, the Chippewas' run in the MAC tournament comes to an end as they split in the tournament going 1-1.
“We're right there,” Gawlik said. “It stings. And I think that's what's gonna kind of drive us in the offseason to be better for this moment later on. I think that experience from Ball State, maybe it was something that just kind of held them together in some bigger moments. And that's something that we are now gaining by being here, and we can capitalize on when we're back.”