HOUGHTON - Coming off a disappointing 3-0 loss to rival Northern Michigan Tuesday, the Michigan Tech volleyball team faces an even tougher test this weekend when they welcome the first-place Northwood Timberwolves and third-place Hillsdale Chargers to Houghton.
First up at 5 p.m. today, Northwood, which is yet to lose in 14 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference matches.
"The reality is with Northwood (20-5, 14-0 GLIAC), they're undefeated for a reason," Tech coach Matt Jennings said. "They're a very good team, and if we were to play them 10 times, we'd probably lose nine, but we're looking for (today) to be the one time. That's our focus."
The Timberwolves have the second-best hitting percentage, the best assists-per-set average, the best kills-per-set average and the best service-aces-per-set average, and according to Jennings, they have a "just dominant" freshman outside hitter in Juliia Pakhomenko.
"It's always fun to come into a match where we're not expected to win," said junior setter Maddie Haben. "From that point of view, using that as fuel as the underdogs, that's a great motivator."
Haben, Tech's undisputed floor leader, has been frustrated at times with the team's losing, but the Huskies' four conference wins is four more than in 2011, a bigger picture she's trying to keep in mind.
"It's hard, because I expect to win every game. This has been a successful year, obviously the coaching staff has really helped us out a lot as far as motivating and getting us to where we are," she said.
"The competitor in me definitely needs to take a step back and say, 'You know what, we have come a long way than where we were,' and that's something to be positive about."
She and the rest of the Huskies will have to keep that in mind this weekend, as a day after facing Northwood, Tech takes on Hillsdale (15-10, 11-3 GLIAC) at 4 p.m., in the middle of a Huskies tripleheader with football against the Chargers at 1 and hockey against Nebraska-Omaha at 7:07.
"Hillsdale is an excellent team. They had a preseason schedule that was incredibly tough, so that 15-10 record is not reflective of their team," Jennings said.
The Chargers had won 11 straight matches before they ran into the Northwood juggernaut on Tuesday, losing 3-0 (25-18, 25-9, 25-18) - which according to Jennings, just shows how good the Timberwolves are.
"(Hillsdale is) well- coached, very disciplined, very strong volleyball IQ, and it's going to be a tough match. However, we're due for this upset. That's the mentality we have," he said. "We're looking at the weekend as another opportunity. If we take care of our side, we can be competitive. It's just a matter of the consistency in which we execute."