HOUGHTON - Michigan Tech gave the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference-leading Northwood Timberwolves a game Friday. They did not, however, give them a loss.
Michigan Tech was better during the second half of the 3-1 (25-17, 25-20, 23-25, 25-22) defeat, but not good enough for a signature victory or to satisfy coach Matt Jennings.
"We have to put together the kind of play we see sporadically for a more extended period of time," he said.
Michigan Tech’s Sylvie Rokosh attacks the block of Northwood’s Tatjana Rajic (9) during Friday’s match at the SDC?Gym. (Daily Mining Gazette/David Archambeau)
Still, the Huskies were up against it, with their visitors coming into the SDC Gym unbeaten in GLIAC play and sporting size and athleticism bordering on monstrous, so Jennings was able to see the bright side, admitting, "I think, in general, we did play pretty well."
"If you don't think we can play with everyone in this league right now, you're not paying attention."
Friday's match was one big international incident: Northwood offered an Eastern European assault, as Juliia Pahkomenko (of Ukraine), Tatjana Rajic (Serbia) and Zina Liubymova (Ukraine) combined for 47 of the Timberwolves' 63 kills, while Tech responded with a pair of Canadian crushers, Shelby Jones (Regina, Sask.) and Sylvie Rokosh (Calgary, Alta.), who combined for 29 kills to lead the Husky offense.
Northwood's attack percentage of .197 was its second-worst of 15 league wins thus far this year, but it came out firing in the first, taking a 9-2 lead in a set that was never really close. When Tech did creep into it at 13-10, Northwood responded with six points in a row to put it in their corner.
Northwood and Tech traded blows early in the second before another six-pointer put the Timberwolves up 19-13. Tech fought back to within 21-17 but no better and went into the locker room for the second-set break with at least one glimmer of hope: Northwood's hitting percentage slowed from .326 in the first to .135 in the second.
Tech made its move in the third, getting the serve on an NU service error, then adding in a row on kills from Rokosh and Andria Nyenhuis and three attack errors for a 12-9 lead.
"Our offense came out and tried to dictate points instead of being reactionary," Jennings said.
Instead of responding, Northwood slipped farther behind, as a quartet of kills, two from Jones and one from Nyenhuis and Maddie Haben, put Tech up 22-16. The road to finish it out was bumpy, as Tech lost its first four set points. With one chance left before the set went to extra points, the Huskies dodged the bullet as Ally Hoomaian's cross-court kill attempt was wide. It was the first set taken off the Timberwolves in two weeks.
Tech had a shot at the fourth, too, leading 17-15 after a Ciara Sebelius ace, but Northwood scored six in a row as Liubymova pitched in a pair of aces. Tech got within a point twice, but Pahkomenko aced the Huskies on match point.
"We had opportunities to beat the best team in the conference and I don't think we took all those opportunities," Jennings said.
Jones finished with 18 kills and 19 digs to lead the Huskies after posting just 10 kills and 16 digs in the last three matches combined, a development with which Jennings was clearly pleased. Rokosh added 11 kills. Haben dished out 31 assists and had seven dump kills without an error. Three other Huskies had double-digit digs, including 16 for Jackie Aird, 15 for Haben and 13 for Aubrey Havlichek.
Pahkomenko had 19 kills and Rajic 17 for the Timberwolves, who can clinch a share of the league regular season title with a win today at Northern Michigan.
Tech, which falls to 9-19 overall (4-11 GLIAC), hosts Hillsdale (a 3-1 loser at NMU Friday) today at 4.