HOUGHTON - The Michigan Tech volleyball team had a much better showing Tuesday night than in its Sept. 25 match at rival Northern Michigan, but the result was still the same, a 3-0 Wildcat sweep (25-23, 25-13, 25-21) in Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference action.
In the Marquette "debacle," as Tech coach Matt Jennings called it, the Huskies lost 25-11, 25-13, 25-16. This time in Houghton, Tech channeled the energy from the home crowd and pep band to jump out to a 9-2 first-set lead.
"I really thought Michigan Tech came out like they always do - they were excited and motivated to play at home and they really put a lot of pressure on us in the first set in the beginning with their serving and in the last set with their attacking," Northern coach Dominic Yoder said.
Michigan Tech’s Kienna Sharp attacks during the second set of Tuesday’s match against Northern Michigan at the SDC?Gym. The Wildcats won 3-0. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
But other than Tech's hot start and hard-fought finish, the Wildcats dominated the rest of the match.
Yoder opted not to call a timeout after Tech opened up its 9-2 lead, but his veteran team pulled together and clawed back to tie the first set at 17-17. After that, Northern only trailed twice in the match, at 1-0 in the second and third sets.
Lisa Studnicka led NMU with five first-set kills, while three others had three apiece. Lina Lopes, the team's leading attacker coming into the match, had only one kill in the first set (and five in the match), but it was the clincher after Tech's Sylvie Rokosh had trimmed Northern's lead to 24-23.
Unlike the first frame, the second set wasn't in doubt for long. Tech's Aubrey Havlichek tied the set at 4-4, but NMU answered with seven straight points. A Lopes serve error finally brought the run to an end, but a Studnicka kill sparked a run of six more points. In the middle of the set, Northern had a stretch where it scored 16 of 19 points, with all three of Tech's points coming on Northern errors.
"That second set, I'm having a hard time understanding how we came out like that after we were so close in the first," Jennings said. "It was just very non-aggressive, and then we got flustered.
"We were two different teams at different points in the match. I thought we actually played our best ball with our backs against the wall at the end. We finally started playing aggressive."
After Jennings called timeout with Tech trailing 12-5 in the third set, Rokosh, a freshman, put her team on her back with five of her team-high nine kills coming in the final set. Tech cut the deficit to 17-13, then 21-18, then 23-21, but Lopes and Kalli Herron - who had a match-high 13 kills - quickly brought an end to the match.
"It took a little spark from one of our players - Sylvie started playing aggressive and then everyone kind of followed suit," Jennings said. "That needs to happen earlier, but it's hard to expect that consistently from a bunch of freshmen and sophomores."
Of the 11 Huskies who saw action Tuesday, seven were underclassmen; of the 10 Wildcats who played, eight were upperclassmen.
Northern outhit Tech .300 to .103. Sarah Hamilton's nine kills complemented Herron and Studnicka's double-digit kill totals, while Kellisha Harley effectively set up the offense with 42 of NMU's 46 assists. Kalin Zimmerman had 16 digs, while Lopes added 14.
For Tech, after Rokosh's nine kills, Shelby Jones had six and Havlichek five. Maddie Haben had 23 of Tech's 25 assists while she and Jackie Aird shared the team lead with eight digs. Tessa Mauer had seven digs and Havlichek contributed six.
Northern Michigan (17-10, 9-5 GLIAC) and Tech (9-18, 4-10 GLIAC) will each return to action Friday (5 p.m.) and Saturday (4 p.m.) with home matches against Hillsdale (at NMU first) and Northwood (at Tech first).