CMU volleyball opens MAC play with loss to Ball State

CMU's volleyball team celebrates after scoring during a match against Albany on Friday, September 1 in McGuirk Arena.

Returning to Muncie, Indiana after losing to Ball State in the Mid-American Conference semifinal last season, Central Michigan volleyball looked for revenge as it began a two-game series with the Cardinals on Thursday to open conference play. 

Unable to be consistent and come out aggressive, the Chippewas were swept by Ball State (15-25, 21-25, 25-27). 

“We want to be aggressive,” head coach Mike Gawlik said. “We want to be going for it and kind of stepping up to the moment when it's out there. I felt like there were a few too many moments early in the first set where we had chances to go for it or play safe and we’re choosing to play safe and Ball State is being a lot more aggressive and turning that into points.” 

CMU moves to 6-7 overall and 0-1 in MAC play. On the other hand, Ball State improves to 4-8 overall and 1-0 in MAC play. 

Senior middle blocker Elly Medendorp led with 10 kills for the Chippewas with sophomore middle blocker Brooklyn Conner not far behind with 7. 

"I thought they both got going in the offensive phase," Gawlik said. "I think where we can take a big step forward is in our blocking defense. We are a better blocking team to just plain blocking three balls in three sets and I think that's something that we have to tackle head on." 

The Chippewas were without kill leader (125) junior opposite Krystina Kasson who had bone spur surgery early Thursday morning giving junior outside hitter Linnea Willer a chance to step up.

“We played without Kasson tonight who really carries a big load for us offensively,” Gawlik said. “Linnea has been a really big player for us ... and I said this to Linnea and our setters ‘Krystina carried such a big load for us, but Lienna doesn’t have to do exactly what Krystina did.’ Lienna is our right side, but we’ve got to use her within her strengths, just like we’re trying to use Krystina within her strengths, so we need other people to step up.” 

Set one opened with a back-and-forth battle, until Ball State went on a 6-1 run to take an eight -point lead. Back-to-back kills from the Chippewas cut Ball State's lead to seven, but it wasn’t enough as the Cardinals continued to find CMU’s weak spots and holes on the court to continue to dominate the Chippewas. 

Down 22-12, Gawlik challenged a no-net violation call and it went CMU’s way, giving the Chippewas a slice of hope as they climbed within ten as the Cardinals hit set point. Despite a service ace from sophomore setter Claire Ammeraal, the Chippewas were unable to keep Ball State contained, dropping the first set, 25-15. 

“I didn’t think we were playing our volleyball in set one,” Gawlik said. “I felt like we were not in the moment. It is the first time for a lot of these athletes on our team to kind of be starting in the conference match so there’s a bit of nerves, there’s a little bit of jitters there … and so after set one we just kind of tried to get people to breathe and take a deep breath.” 

Struggling with errors, the Cardinals took a 7-3 lead early in set two. Coming off the bench, Conner gave the Chippewas some momentum with a kill and block leading to a service ace from Devon Bright allowing CMU to trail by one with a score of 12-11. 

Continuing to keep the Chippewas in the game, Conner came up big with three kills in a row as CMU trailed 20-18.  Unable to stop Madison Buckley, who recorded four kills in set two, the Chippewas dropped the set with a final score of 25-21. 

Tied at seven in set three, CMU struggled with errors allowing the Cardinals to go on a 4-0 run to take a four-point lead. However, back-to-back kills from junior outside hitter Lauren Schrock fired up CMU, going on a 4-0 run to take their first lead of the game with a score of 12-11. 

Coming back with an 8-5 run of their own, the Cardinals took back their lead with a score of 19-17. Back-to-back kills from Schrock and Medendorp gave momentum to the Chippewas. 

With BSU one point away from the sweep, a back-and-forth volley kept CMU in the set with a kill from Bright to leave them trailing by one with a score of 25-24. Both teams refused to go down without a fight as the lead bounced back and forth until a kill from Kennedy Anyia secured the sweep for BSU with a final score of 27-25. 

The Chippewas have a quick turnaround as they face the Cardinals tomorrow at 6 p.m. 

“We’ve got to fight harder to get more attackers being able to hit each ball,” Gawlik said. “We had too many balls tonight or too many digs or too many passes that lead just one attacker open as the option. There were moments we were great, but our consistency of play has to put us in a position to beat a good team.”