INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Michigan Tech opened the 2018 Midwest Regional Crossover with a pair of hard-fought 3-1 wins over Truman State of the GLVC and Tiffin of the G-MAC. With today's wins, the team sees their winning streak jump to eight matches as their overall record improves to 18-3.
"Today was a great day for us overall," said head coach Matt Jennings of his team's cumulative performance. "Two big regional wins over two really good teams. I thought both matches were hard fought and wouldn't have been possible without a total team effort."
VS. TRUMAN STATE
Michigan Tech started off on the wrong foot before taking control in a 3-1 win (17-25, 25-14, 25-17, 25-17) over Truman State to begin competition at the 2018 Midwest Regional Crossover.
The Huskies came out in the first set and fell behind early to the Bulldogs (16-5, 8-3 GLVC) following a lengthy run of seven points, during which the Huskies committed three attacking errors. Tech was able to make it a five-point margin midway through the action thanks to three straight points, but they weren't able to close the gap any further and were eventually beaten, 25-17, in the set.
The Black and Gold opened the second set on a tear with 11 unanswered points as the serving of sophomore Anna Jonynas and the high-powered Husky offense asserted themselves in the frame. The Huskies peppered the Bulldog backcourt with shot after shot and continued to dig out well-placed attacks, widening their lead to as large as 14 towards the end of the set. The Huskies would finish off the Bulldogs and win 25-14 to even the match at 1-1.
"Coach was giving us the zones to look for," Jonynas said of her serving during the second set. "Just making good, aggressive hits helped a lot in getting them out of their system."
The Huskies carried their momentum into the third set and quickly took a lead they would never relinquish thanks to four straight points early in the frame. Truman State got to within two points of Tech late in the match, but a kill from Jonynas sparked a five-point run that put the score at 21-13 for the Huskies. Kills from Jonynas, freshman Janie Grindland, and sophomore Olivia Ghormley helped finish the set in favor of the Black and Gold, and gave them the 2-1 advantage in the match.
Three of the first four points in the fourth set helped Michigan Tech jump to a quick lead, and it wasn't before long that a run of five straight points led to a big 10-3 advantage. Truman State fought back and with a five point run of their own brought the score to 15-12 before three straight Husky points squashed any kind of momentum the Bulldogs possessed. Another three-point Tech run put the game out of reach, and the Huskies wound up taking the set, 25-17, and the match.
"We were serving them tough and getting them out of system," said sophomore Megan Utlak, who led the team with 15 digs and four service aces. "Our block was doing a really good job of funneling the ball and helping make my job easier. Putting a lot of pressure on them got them out of their system, and it allowed our defense to get into a rhythm."
Ghormley led the team with 18 kills, while Jonynas finished with a hitting percentage of .360 to top the team. Senior Mariah Sherman added 15 kills on the day, and sophomore Laura DeMarchi led all players with 43 assists.
Tech finished with a .240 hitting percentage in the match with 54 total kills, hitting above .300 and combining for 34 kills in the final two sets. The Huskies also finished with an astounding 10 service aces, tied for the second-highest amount of the season.
Michigan Tech started off their match against Tiffin with a pair of comfortable wins before battling the rest of the way to a 3-1 win (25-16, 25-14, 18-25, 25-23) in their second contest of the day.
The fourth set against the Dragons (17-6, 11-2 G-MAC) was a tense, back-and-forth affair. The Huskies jumped out to a 7-5 lead before Tiffin came back and pulled ahead 10-9. The teams traded points and serves for a short while before Tech went on top with six of the next eight points to make it a 18-15 score late. The Dragons refused to go away, digging out shot after shot and forcing the Huskies into errors as they tied the game at 22-22. A kill by Mariah Sherman broke the Tiffin run, while sophomore Anna Jonynas put the Huskies on match point, and freshman Janie Grindland finished off the match with a powerful kill.
"Our defense was not letting any ball hit the floor against us," said Megan Utlak. "Defense wins tight games like that. We've been playing our butts off every match, and it put us over the top in that last set."
The start of the third set was much closer compared to the previous two, with neither team able to pull away from the other for any lead greater than two points. Both teams went on a series of runs to pull ahead or tie the score, filling the frame with tension as the former GLIAC rivals went toe-to-toe with one another. It wasn't until deep into the set did Tiffin pull away from the Huskies with a six-point run that put them ahead 23-18 before winning the frame and extending the match.
"We had a few too many unforced errors, and then they just got into a rhythm that was hard to stop," Utlak said of the third-set run by the Dragons.
The Huskies rebounded from falling behind 5-3 early to the Dragons (17-6, 11-2 G-MAC) with nine of the next 10 points in the match to pull ahead 12-6. Tiffin pulled to within three points, but widened the gap with four straight points to make it 19-12 before scoring five of the final seven points of the frame to earn the first set 25-16.
The Huskies scored eight of the first 10 points in the second stanza before Tiffin was forced to burn an early timeout. Tech continued to pile on the points against the Dragons and eventually cruised to a 25-14 win in the second set, hitting .458 as a team and limiting Tiffin to a .241 hitting percentage.
Michigan Tech finished the match with 62 kills and .342 hitting percentage, compared to Tiffin's 54 kills and .244 hitting percentage. The Huskies also finished with more assists (62-48), as sophomore Laura DeMarchi personally matched Tiffin's team total. Tech also out-dug Tiffin (53-43), and finished with nine total blocks to Tiffin's six.
Sherman had a big match against Tiffin, scoring 19 kills and finishing with a hitting percentage of .385, while Grindland put in eight kills and a .375 rating in her first start of the season. Sophomore Olivia Ghormley chipped in 13 kills in the win, and junior Rachel Ping committed no errors and finished with five kills on nine attempts for a .556 hitting percentage.
Utlak and DeMarchi led the way with 12 digs each, and Jonynas and junior Kristine Fink both tallied 10 digs to finish in double-figures. At the net, Sherman led the way with six total blocks on one solo block and five assisted blocks.
The Huskies have one match left on their schedule at the Crossover, and it's against 10th-ranked Rockhurst (21-3, 10-1 GLVC) at 1pm on Saturday (Oct. 13).
"Tomorrow's match will be the biggest challenge of the season for us," Jennings said of Rockhurst, who advanced to the NCAA Division II Final Four in two out of the last three years. "They might be one of the best teams we face all year. We'll have to be on point and ready to play, and I know these Huskies will fight and give their best effort. It should be a great match."
The Hawks went 1-1 in their first day of competition at the Crossover, winning 3-0 against Saginaw Valley State in the early afternoon match before dropping a 3-1 decision to Walsh in the evening session.