CMU volleyball sweeps EMU to close regular season
Central Michigan volleyball secured the No. 4 seed in the Mid-American Conference tournament after sweeping Eastern Michigan, 3-0 (25-21, 25-21, 25-23) in Yipsilanti on Wednesday.
The Chippewas completed the regular season with an overall record of 19-10 and 12-6 in conference play, finishing second in the MAC West and fourth overall in the MAC.
“We knew we were in the MAC tournament by our big weekend against Western,” said head coach Mike Gawlik. “And so, I felt like the thing that we needed to kind of battle today was… how do we come out and really establish that our level of play is based on our standard, not on any external factors. We said we wanted to go into the next tournament with some momentum and playing well and feeling good about how we're playing.”
During the match sophomore libero, Aly Gurtiza broke the CMU record for most digs in a single season since rally scoring with 586, surpassing Megan Kern who previously had the record with 578.
“Her ability to make plays, to extend rallies and create scoring opportunities is a special trait,” Gawlik said. “She anchors our defense, which has been among the league's best in her two years. When you have a stud libero, you’re in every rally. I feel she’s one of the very best in our league as both a passer and defender. I wouldn’t trade her for anyone.”
“I think that's one of the things that makes our group special,” Gawlik said. “Is that we don't really rely on one player to have to do everything but it's something for everybody.”
With friends and family in the stands, senior middle blocker Maddie Whitfield ended the day with eight kills on a .533 hitting percentage and two blocks.
“Eight from Maddie Whitfield, who's playing in front of what felt like a home crowd for us, because of how many Whitfields were there,” Gawlik said. “Maddie went to Saline High School, which is right in their backyard. And so, I thought Maddie played really well, from the offensive side of the ball.”
Junior middle blocker Elly Medendorp hit a season-high hitting percentage of .538 with eight kills.
Freshman outside hitter Natalia Rejment led the offensive attack for the Chippewas ending the night with 12 kills along with eight digs and one ace.
Also leading the offensive attack, senior outside hitter Mallory Hernandez had 12 kills in the match with a .304 hitting percentage.
Tied at six in set one, the Chippewas went on a 7-2 run aided by two kills from freshman setter Claire Ammeraal to take the 13-8 lead. Following a three-point run from the Eagles, CMU shot right back with a three-point run of their own to maintain its lead, 19-14. After a small run from EMU on set point, the Chippewas sealed the first set win, 25-21 on a kill from Rejment.
The Chippewas picked up right where they left off, outscoring the Eagles 8-1 to begin set two. CMU jumped out to a 10-3 lead however, EMU fought back and produced an 8-1 run cutting the Chippewas lead to two. The comeback effort for the Eagles was cut short as CMU took set two 25-21 going up 2-0 in the match.
Looking to complete the sweep, the Chippewas jumped out to a 5-1 lead aided by three kills from Hernandez to start the third set. EMU fought back taking their first lead of the match, 8-7. After trading points throughout the set, CMU defeated the Eagles, 25-23 to complete the sweep.
As the regular season comes to an end, the Chippewas will face off against the No. 5 seed Toledo in the MAC Tournament on Sunday at Ball State at 4:30 p.m.
“This is what you work your butt off for all year to put yourself in a position to have a shot,” Gawlik said. “We've got to enjoy the moment, we've got to embrace the moment, (and) really kind of try to capitalize on the moment by just playing our style and staying calm and composed, and really just putting our best style of volleyball out there.c I think if that happens, I think we've got a pretty good shot at making a run.”