CMU volleyball swept in NIVC to end the 2022 season

Senior outside hitter Anna Erickson hits the ball past two defenders Sunday, Nov. 20, in Worthen Arena, on the campus of Ball State University in Munice, Ind.

Central Michigan volleyball came into the first round of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship looking to keep their 2022 season alive. 

However, Xavier took control of the match and swept the Chippewas 3-0 (25-23, 25-18, 29-27) on Thursday ending CMU’s season. 

“I thought we played competitively from start to finish,” said head coach Mike Gawlik. “We just needed a play or two and when you win by two, you feel like a million bucks and when you lose by two, you feel like you haven't done enough… I think we put ourselves in a position to win, but we needed to make a couple more plays to actually win.” 

Junior middle blocker Elly Medendorp led the charge for the Chippewas with 10 kills on a .444 hitting percentage along with one block. 

“Elly took some pretty aggressive swings out there,” Gawlik said. “Ten kills on 18 swings is really efficient volleyball and she made a couple of errors, but those are errors that we want, we want her to be aggressive and that comes with not being perfect. I thought offensively, she had a really good night, and she really kind of kept us in some big plays.”  

The loss ends the season for the Chippewas' seniors, outside hitter Anna Erickson, middle blocker Maddie Whitfield and outside hitter Mallory Hernandez. 

“It's sad to see them be done with their time in maroon and gold,” Gawlik said. "And it's sad to see them, in a sense, walk off the court for the last time because they've represented our program with such class and such honor. And I think that our program is just in such a better place because of people like them that have helped us set the tone in our culture. It's sad that it's over because I've really enjoyed this group. I'm excited for them to take the next step in their lives, but there's gonna be some big shoes to fill.” 

Erickson had 10 kills and eight digs. Whitfield ended the night with six kills and three blocks while Hernandez secured nine kills. 

The Chippewas jumped out to an 8-3 lead in the first set aided by three kills from Medendorp. However, Xavier shot right back with a four-point run evening the score at 12. After the Musketeers retook the lead, the Chippewas went on a 5-1 run grabbing a 21-20 lead. After trading points, Xavier took set one, 25-23, taking a 1-0 lead over CMU. 

Erickson put the team on top early in the second set, securing four-straight kills to take a 5-3 lead. However, the Musketeers put together a 6-1 run taking a 16-11 advantage. 

Following a CMU timeout, the Chippewas bounced back with six-straight points to give them a 17-16 lead. But Xavier came alive and won the set 25-18, putting them ahead 2-0 in the match. 

The Musketeers secured six-straight points to go up 21-14 in the third set. But the Chippewas were not done as they fired back with a 6-0 run of their own. Back-to-back kills from Whitfield tied the set at 23, but after a back-and-forth battle, Xavier completed the sweep 3-0 over the Chippewas with a 29-27 victory. 

Freshman outside hitter Maddy Gebhardt came in late during the final set keeping the Chippewas alive securing four kills. 

“I think it's a really good confidence booster for somebody like her to know that she can step into that role and find success,” Gawlik said. “It wasn't necessarily that she just went four kills on four swings, but it was really the aggressiveness of all four contacts that I was probably the most impressed by.”

The Chippewas finish 20-12 overall and 12-6 in conference play. They finished second in the Mid-American Conference West and made it to the MAC tournament semi-finals.

“I love this group, I really do,” Gawlik said. “I love watching them play. I wish we could have put ourselves in a position to play again, not just for our seniors, but because I enjoy being with them. It's one of the best teams I've been a part of, from a chemistry perspective, and they truly love to play, and they truly love playing with each other and for each other. And that’s what we ask of them all the time. 

“It's emotional to see that end. And for those individuals, which a lot of them have an opportunity to come back, we challenge them with carrying the torch a little bit farther next year and building our culture even stronger.”