HOUGHTON - Friday night's 3-2 win over Tiffin represented quality progress for the Michigan Tech volleyball team.
And sometimes progress can be painful.
The Huskies recorded their second Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference win of the season and first home win since Sept. 18, 2010, in a thrilling five-setter, but it needn't had been so thrilling nor so dramatic.
Michigan Tech freshman libero Jackie Aird dives for a dig in Friday’s five-set win over Tiffin at the Student Development Complex. Madeline Haben looks on for Tech. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
Tech (8-15 overall, 2-7 GLIAC) opened the first two games hitting .373 and won each set comfortably 25-20 and 24-18. Then, after the six minute break between the second and third sets, the Huskies completely lost their attacking verve. Tiffin (7-13 overall, 1-9 GLIAC) took over with third and fourth set wins of 25-14 and 25-20, but Tech recovered in time to hold off the Dragons in the fifth set 15-13.
"A win is a win is a win," Tech head coach Matt Jennings said. "I'm very happy we pulled it off. To be honest, I thought we deserved it. That would have been a tough one to swallow if we hadn't gotten a win."
Freshman Sylvie Rokosh made sure the Huskies faithful were rewarded for sticking out all five sets with the Tech-Minnesota hockey game looming quickly after.
Rokosh put away three kills in the final four points - and six in the 15 point set - all on the same play. A natural middle hitter, Rokosh had moved to the right side recently but still can run the quick set with Madeline Haben (52 assists, four kills) outside.
"She was a middle for us earlier in the year and in this past weekend, we moved her to the right but what we were able to do is keep running that quick attack," Jennings said. "The way she has been able to move around, it has been a delight to see her mature before my eyes.
"It is good to see them play well when it matters most."
Sophomore Shelby Jones (21 kills, .340 hitting percentage) set the tone for Tech early, killing 58 percent of balls set her way in the first two sets as her and Haben combined beautifully outside.
Jennings could be heard in the huddle applauding her to "keep doing what you are doing," as Jones put kills over, around and through the two-man block. The team recorded just two errors against 14 kills in the opening salvo.
"When I first got here it was obvious that she had a great arm, real strong and she hits the ball hard," Jennings said. "However, she would get underneath the ball and look up, so she would really have to rely on blasting it. But we are working on that and now she is able to see the court out of her peripheral and find the spot on the court to attack.
"That is the best offensive stretch we have had all year long."
Up 2-0, Tech needed to simply follow Jennings' advice to Jones and they would have ended the match in under an hour.
Instead, the tempo in the offense fell off and the Huskies hit just minus-.026 in the third set and .070 in the fourth.
Jennings believes with a young team it is simply learning to play through tired arms and legs that led to the drop off in performance.
"We went into the locker room at the split and all we talked about how we need to close, we need to finish. As a young team we aren't doing a very good job of overcoming physical fatigue," Jennings said. "They just don't know yet what it takes to sustain that focus over a long period of time. It certainly is not a talent aspect and I don't think its an effort thing.
"It got real bad, real fast."
Still, the Huskies recovered in time to grab some momentum heading into today's match with Ohio Dominican at 1 p.m.