HOUGHTON - The Michigan Tech volleyball team has played 22 matches this year, only two of them at home. That's all about to change starting this weekend, when the Huskies will kick off a stretch with all but two of the last nine regular season matches at home.
Tech is coming off a 2-3 road Illinois road trip against five non-conference opponents, and strangely enough, the team feels particularly confident coming off a 3-0 loss to Lewis.
Lewis is 14-8 this year and has defeated Ferris State and Northern Michigan, and Tech was tied 23-23 in the first set and 25-25 in the second set, only to fall 25-23 and 27-25 in those sets.
"We played as well as we have all season," Tech coach Matt Jennings said. "We looked at this past weekend as the beginning of the second half, and everyone who was there and part of felt good about it."
Last Friday's 3-2 loss to Quincy was the best the Huskies had played in two weeks, according to Jennings. Last Saturday, Tech opened with its most disappointing result of the weekend, a 3-0 loss to Illinois-Springfield before rebounding later that day with a "hard-fought, well-deserved" 3-2 win over St. Joseph's.
Tech easily beat Indiana-Kokomo 3-0 on Monday before dropping the five-set match against Lewis.
Now, the Huskies are gearing up to host Tiffin (5 p.m. Friday) and Ohio Dominican (1 p.m. Saturday, and all the matches the rest of the way will be in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
"They're really excited to showcase their dedication and hard work that has only been seen in person twice," Jennings said. "We want to win every game we can, but I've been ambiguous with my goals for wins and losses.
"Of course I want to win every game, but victories with this team will be measured by growth. In that regard, if we continue on this path and have some home matches, I think we're all very excited about that."
Tech (7-15, 2-7 GLIAC) feels it matches up well with both the Dragons (7-12, 1-8 GLIAC) and Panthers (10-10, 4-5 GLIAC), with all three teams using similar styles, which should make for "two matches that are pretty entertaining," Jennings said.
Tech fans may not be all that familiar with the Huskies lineup after so many matches on the road, but Jennings has made a few noticeable adjustments.
Freshman Aubrey Havlichek, who was recruited as both a left- and right-side hitter, has moved to the left side, while Sylvie Rokosh is hitting from the right. Jordanna Kero is now coming off the bench, and Shelby Jones continues to be Tech's go-to player. Jones had 19, 10, 20, 12 and 13 kills in the five matches this past week.
"I think with Sylvie getting more attemps and Aubrey getting more attempts, that feeds into a little more faster of a game," Jennings said. "(This past week) our hitting percentage was up, kills were up, digs per set were up some of the retuners are starting to get the system better, and the freshmen are growing right before our eyes."
Defensive specialist Jackie Aird missed two matches with a concussion, but she's back, though it momentarily created an opportunity for fellow freshman Sarah Rasmussen, who had a 17-dig effort against Quincy.
"We've had our bumps in the road but we're coming into the weekend on a positive note," Jennings said. "We're looking forward to a fun weekend being home and right before some hockey games."