CMU volleyball goes 3-0 at Chippewa Invitational

CMU volleyball players cheer after winning a set against Bradley on Saturday, September 2 in McGuirk Arena.

Central Michigan volleyball held its home opener on Friday to kick off the Chippewa Invitational facing off against the University of Albany and Saint Louis University and finishing off against Bradley University on Saturday.

“I love playing at McGuirk,” libero junior Aly Gurtiza said. “The energy is always good and (it's) always so fun to play at home and play with each other again at home, I think it's special.” 

Coming in hot to open play at McGuirk Arena, CMU swept Albany, 3-0 (25-22, 25-21, 25-18). They followed the sweep with a nail-biting five-set match against SLU winning 3-2 (25-19, 25-19, 16-25, 17-25, 15-9). 

Finishing off the weekend, the Chippewas secured the win against Bradley in another five-set showdown, 3-2.

“Our team relies on that confidence factor,” sophomore setter Claire Ammeraal said. “And now we can go head-to-head with these good teams especially in fifth set situations because we had a lot of losses and that kind of shook our confidence a little bit, but now that we're building it back up it just solidified that we are a good team.”

With the invitational sweep, the Chippewas move to 3-3 overall. 

“I mean it feels good,” head coach Mike Gawlik said. “Winning is way better than losing but I think it's more the growth I’m proud of.” 

Winning the final set against SLU not only gave the Chippewas their confidence back after being swept last weekend but it gave head coach Mike Gawlik his 100th win of his career all at CMU. 

“It's really hard to win one match so when you put yourself in a position to win 100, you know how much hard work goes into that,” Gawlik said. “I have great staff currently and I’ve had a great staff that been on the benches for all of them. I’m just grateful for the people that I’ve been surrounded by and put their trust in me to certainly give us that opportunity to win 100.” 

On top of a monumental moment for Gawlik, Ammeraal set a career high with five service aces and had two double-doubles. 

“She’s a five-tool player. She’s a defensive threat,” Gawlik said. “She’s digging 20 balls, she’s blocking balls, she’s serving balls and I think that element of her game has gotten better and then she provides attacking options, she really does everything.” 

In her first game at McGuirk grad student outside hitter Devon Bright led the offense with 30 kills on the weekend.  

“Whether you play in Maroon and Gold or whether you play somewhere else playing Division I volleyball is an experience you lean on,” Gawlik said. “Devon’s played in a lot of matches in her career, she is a fifth-year senior for us. She’s been out in a lot of games and played in a lot of different gyms and played in a lot of different environments."

Game 1

Albany shot out the gate early, taking 8-4 lead to open set one. However, the Chippewas finally found their footing and climbed their way up the scoreboard taking their first lead of the game with a score of 13-12. 

Following a back-and-forth battle, CMU started to pull away following a 10-1 run aided by kills from Krystina Kasson and a service ace from Alina Anderson. 

With CMU at match point, Albany began clawing their way back, going on a 3-0 run, but a kill from Bright sealed the set one win for the Chippewas, 25-22. 

Tied at six to begin set two, the Chippewas went on a 6-2 run to get the early momentum. A service ace from Gurtiza led CMU on an 8-4 run with kills from senior middle blocker Elly Medendorp and redshirt sophomore middle blocker Abby Olin to extend the lead 18-14. 

Coming back once again, Albany went on a 5-3 run to get within three. Unphased by the Great Danes, the Chippewas sealed the deal with back-to-back kills from Bright and Kasson to end the set with a score of 25-21. 

Looking for the sweep, CMU came out strong going on a 10-3 run aided by two aces from Gurtiza. Continuing the momentum, the Chippewas went on an 11-7 run to extend the lead to 11. 

With a 5-1 run the Great Danes cut the lead to nine to make the score 21-12. Finding a rhythm as CMU was at match point, Albany cut the lead to six. However, a kill from Kasson secured the sweep with a final score of 25-18. 

Game 2 

After allowing Saint Louis to score the first point, the Chippewas went on an 8-4 run with a combination of skills from Lauren Schrock and Ammeraal to make the score 17-9. 

With back-to-back kills, Schrock helped the Chippewas take a 10-point lead and five points away from the win. Finding a rhythm, Saint Louis refused to go down without a fight going on a 9-5 run to cut CMU's lead to five. 

A kill by Bright finally broke the Billikens rhythm resulting in an attack error to give CMU the first set, 25-19. 

Following a controversial call that went in Saint Louis' favor to begin set two, the Chippewas bounced back with a 6-1 run to take the lead. 

After a small Saint Louis run, three-straight kills from Kasson surged the Chippewas to regain their lead with a score of 18-16, forcing a Billikens timeout. With momentum on their side, the Chippewas took set two, 25-19. 

The Chippewas found themselves down early, 4-3 to begin set three after another call in favor of the Billikens. 

Continuing to add to her kill count Schrock broke up the Billiken's momentum to tie the game at five. The Billikens shot right back with a 7-2 run to extend their lead to 20-13 forcing a CMU timeout. Saint Louis went on a 6-3 run to end the set, 25-16 and force a set four. 

As the Chippewas struggled to find their momentum in set four, the Billikens continued their hot streak to take an early 8-3 lead. Saint Louis continued to add to their tally with a 6-3 run to go up seven.

Unable to stop the kill attacks from Jillian Mattingly and Erin Henken, the Chippewas fell again with a final score of 25-17. 

In do-or-die territory, CMU knew something had to change to secure the match win. 

Going on a 5-3 run early in the final match, CMU came out swinging to take a 6-4 lead. After Saint Louis tied it back up, back-to-back kills and a block from Bright led the Chippewas to a 5-3 run to take a four-point lead. As Saint Louis struggled to keep the ball in bounds, the Chippewas came out with the victory with a final score of 15-9. 

Game 3

In their final game of the invitational, the Chippewas looked to come out on top going into the match 2-0. Bradley came in with a 1-1 record, defeating Albany and then losing to Saint Louis. 

Tied at six, Bradley would find its rhythm and capitalize on some CMU mistakes by going on an 8-6 run to make the score 14-11 in the first set. A kill from Ellie Medendorp followed up by a service ace from Kayla Brandon sparked the Chippewas momentum tying the game at 15.

A block from Medendorp and Ammeraal followed up by a kill from Ammeraal gave CMU a 16-15 lead. Finding their footing again, Bradley went on a 5-3 run to take the lead back with a score of 21-18, forcing a Chippewas timeout. 

Flipping the script, CMU went on a run forcing a Braves timeout as they trailed by one. Unphased by the Chippewas, Bradley came back to keep their lead and secure set one with a score of 25-21.

Keeping the momentum on their side, the Braves came out hard in set two, going on a 6-2 run to lead CMU by four. 

Capitalizing on Bradley errors, the Chippewas began to climb their way back with a service ace from Bright leading to a 7-3 run to gain their first lead of the set with a score of 12-11. 

Despite the Braves tying the game at 14, CMU was quick to come back with a kill from Kasson followed by a service ace from Emma Dukate to regain the lead with a score of 17-15. Two service aces from Bradley forced a Chippewa timeout as the Braves took a one-point lead at 18-17. 

After Bradley extended their lead to three Schrock helped tie the game at 24, ending the Braves 5-2 run. 

Both teams refused to go down without a fight and the lead bounced back and forth until a kill from Medendorp and a service ace from Bright ended the set with a final score of 31-29.

Fired up from a set two comeback win, the Chippewas came into set three going on a 6-3 to run to take a three-point lead. After a Bradley timeout, the Braves put the game within one going on a 6-2 run. 

Continuing on their streak, Bradley took the lead with a 6-3 run to make the score 23-21. A kill from the Braves followed by an out-of-bounds ball, secured the third set for Bradley with a final score of 25-22. 

The Chippewas bounced back to begin set four with a 6-1 run. Keeping its composure, CMU secured four-straight points to go up 12-8. 

Following three-straight points from Bradley on CMU's match point, Schrock secured set four, 25-21 to force a set five.

For the second time over the weekend, CMU found themselves in do-or-die situation. Coming out aggressive to start set five, the Chippewas went on a 5-1 run scoring four points in a row thanks to blocks from their front line. 

Finding their footing the Braves came back with a 3-0 run to put them within one with a score of 5-4. A kill by Gebhardt put CMU back in a rhythm scoring three points in a row to extend its lead to four. To finish out the set, the Chippewas went on a 7-3 run with three kills in a row to secure the set and an undefeated weekend with a final score of 15-9. 

“It’s really easy to have a lot of energy at home,” Olin said. “And I’m hoping to see us bring all that energy to those away games.” 

CMU travels to Iowa for the Hawkeye Invitational. The Chippewas first game is against Iowa at 7 p.m. on Friday. 

“I think we need to bring the confidence that we gain from this weekend and accept this challenge that is next weekend and know that we can compete with these big schools and be just as good as them,” Medendorp said.