HOUGHTON - They say familiarity breeds contempt. Friday, Lake Superior State's familiarity with Michigan Tech and vice-versa led to parity, and a five-set Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opener for both sides.
When the see-saw settled, the host Huskies pinched a 3-2 (19-25, 25-18, 25-10, 21-25, 15-11) win over the Lakers to start their league ledger in the win column.
"We grew as a group, no doubt about it," Tech coach Matt Jennings said.
Michigan Tech head coach Matt Jennings (center)?reacts to his team winning a point late in the fifth set Friday against Lake Superior State at the SDC?Gym. Huskies pictured are, from left, Sylvie Rokosh, Andria Nyenhuis, Aubrey Ficek, Sarah Rasmussen and Jacqueline Aird. The Huskies beat the Lakers 3-2. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
The Huskies crushed the Lakers last weekend in a non-league match at the Superior Oasis Wildcat Open in Marquette and saw each other in an August scrimmage in Duluth.
"That team is improving every single week. I've seen them for three out of four weekends and they're improving. They came energized, wanting to prove something to us and they certainly did. We weren't ready," Jennings said.
After Tech won the first point, LSSU won the next six, including two Emily Snyder aces. The Huskies never strung more than three points together and couldn't get closer than 21-18.
In the second, Tech found its rhythm and an 8-4 lead early. The Lakers got close, but five in a row late made it 23-14 and the Huskies went into the second-set break with clear momentum.
In the third, Tech treated LSSU like the last-place North Division pick it was in the GLIAC volleyball preseason coaches' poll, going up 10-1 early and holding them to their second consecutive negative (more errors than kills) hitting percentage set.
Instead of wilting, the Lakers held their own in the fourth, and as both teams scored well into the teens without making a decisive move, LSSU took advantage. The Lakers built a 22-17 cushion, nearly lost it all, then scored the last three points of the set to take it the distance.
The Huskies lost the first three points of the decider, but after a timeout settled down to get things essentially even when they switched sides. Tech made its key run on three straight kills by Kendall Ward, Kienna Sharp and Rachel Ficek. Ward and Ficek are freshmen.
Ficek added three more kills as Tech took control, and at the second opportunity, Sylvie Rokosh went cross-court for the match-winner.
"I do think we're the better ball-control team there, and to be honest, I think that's where the difference was made," Jennings said.
Tech outhit the Lakers and had more assists and digs.
Ficek had 18 kills. Rokosh added 12 and both Ward and Sharp had eight. Maddie Haben dished out 52 assists.
Defensively, four Tech players had double-digit digs: Haben and freshman Rachel Pohlod with 11, Ficek and Sarah Rasmussen with 10.
The Huskies (3-6, 1-0 GLIAC) host Saginaw Valley, a 3-0 loser at Northern Michigan Friday, today at 4 p.m. in the SDC Gym.