CMU volleyball comes back to defeat Eastern in final match
For the first time this season, Central Michigan volleyball sophomore outside hitter Natalia Rejment jumped up and stuffed down a kill in set two, leading to a game-tying kill from senior middle blocker Elly Medendorp.
“Natalia is really good at kind of being what we would call affectionately the garbage lady,” head coach Mike Gawlik said. “Natalia has lots of experience ... she’s just one of those people that the ball finds her. I thought she handled balls with maturity and she took some big swings, but really it was her ability to create.”
Continuing to create momentum, Rejment and her teammates came back in five sets (18-25, 24-26, 23-25, 25-23, 25-14, and 15-12) against Eastern Michigan on Wednesday to end the season 9-9 in the Mid-American Conference and 15-15 overall.
“There’s some people that would say tonight’s match doesn’t matter,” Gawlik said. “But it does matter, and it matters to us and it certainly mattered to them (the team). We didn’t love the way we came out in set one ... after set one we pushed back, and we challenged our athletes.”
Struggling to find their footing the Chippewas found themselves falling behind early in set one as the Eagles took a seven-point lead, 12-5. Despite a service error from the Eagles leading to a 9-3 run aided by an ace from Rejment, CMU dropped set one 25-18.
Tied at six in set two, EMU went on a 5-1 run to take an 11-7 lead. An assist on a kill from CMU's sophomore setter Claire Ammeraal not only gave her 2,000 in her career, but led to four kills to tie the set at 13.
After a back-and-forth battle of ties and lead changes, Rejment’s kill helped lead the Chippewas to a 7-2 run taking a three-point lead, 23-20. Unable to stop the Eagles from scoring three points in a row, EMU took a 26-24 lead.
"We let it (set two) slip away," Gawlik said. "And that can be really heartbreaking. We didn't play poorly in set two ... . We just lost some key points and and couldn't come up with enough stops."
As both teams refused to go down without a fight in set three, a back-and-forth battle of ties and lead changes ensued until a service ace from Rejement led to a 5-0 run with another service ace from Rejment taking an 18-13 lead.
Looking to take set three and sweep, the Eagles scored five points in a row trailing by one, 23-22. It wasn’t enough as a final kill from CMU sophomore middle blocker Brooklyn Conner stuffed down a kill to keep the Chippewas alive, 25-23.
"We kind of made a decision," Gawlik said. "You know, we could have one and set two. We didn't but we came out and won a close one in set three. I think after that it was all Chips. We were saying in the huddle if we can just stay in and put some pressure on them ... winning and having some momentum would be something that would benefit us. We just kept asking our athletes to be aggressive."
For the third time, the Eagles and Chippewas were tied early. Four points in a row aided by a service ace from sophomore outside hitter Maddy Gebhardt broke the score for the Chippewas, 12-8.
Back-to-back kills and a duo block from Rejment and Mednedorp put CMU up by 10 and a final kill from Ammeraal forced set five, 25-14.
Refusing to go down without a fight in the final set, the Chippewas and EMU battled back and forth with ties and lead changes. Back-to-back points from Conner broke the tie at seven giving CMU its biggest lead of the set, 10-7.
Despite the Eagles battling to keep it close, it wasn’t enough as a kill from graduate student outside hitter Devon Bright knocked down a kill to give CMU the win, 15-12.
“To have her (Devon) come through in a big moment, especially for the final kill of her collegiate career I think is the cherry on top,” said Gawlik. “She worked incredibly hard and I’m grateful that she got that big moment.”