HOUGHTON - The first weekend of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference volleyball season followed an exhausting but productive pattern for Michigan Tech.
For the second day in a row, the Huskies went five sets, and for the second day in a row, the Huskies came away winners in a 3-2 (25-20, 25-20, 22-25, 23-25, 15-8) decision, this time over Saginaw Valley State.
Leading the way was Husky freshman Aubrey Ficek, who fired off 23 kills and eight of Tech's 10 service aces. She wasn't the only underclassman to make a major contribution, as freshmen Rachel Pohlod and Kendall Ward logged significant time, as did sophomores Sylvie Rokosh and Jacqueline Aird.?"Especially with having three freshmen playing together, it's nervous. I feel like it's really bringing us together as a team, combining the more experienced veterans with the youth this year," Ficek said.
Michigan Tech’s Rachel Pohlod makes a pass during Saturday’s match against Saginaw Valley?State at the SDC?Gym. (DMG photo by David Archambeau)
The Huskies had the narrow upper hand early. Saginaw came out of the break just stronger enough to take two close sets, but the Huskies carried the fifth, with the help of three kills and a match-winning ace from Ficek.
"She does things the right way. As she gets older and is able to sustain the focus, that's going to be good stuff," Tech coach Matt Jennings said.
Tech did well to carry over the intensity from Friday's five-set win with Lake Superior State. Neither side took control of the first set until the Huskies broke an 18-all tie by rattling off six points in a row (two of them Ficek kills) on setter Maddie Haben's serve for a commanding lead. After the Cardinals dodged two set points, Ficek put them away.
"We scouted before so we knew the cross shot was going to be open for us. Basically, just, Maddie Haben and I worked together and found the rhythm and started firing," Ficek said.
In the second, Ficek served first and aced SVSU for points two, three and five before the Cardinals got on the board. They eventually tied it at 14, but never led.
Tech made two big runs in the third, both with Aird serving, but the Cardinals drew even both times, and with the score 23-23, got back-to-back kills to stave off a sweep.
In the fourth, SVSU ran off seven in a row for an 18-13 lead. The Huskies closed to within 23-22, but SVSU closed well again.
Tech jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the fifth set and held the Cardinals at arm's length the rest of the way, notching eight kills against three errors for their best hitting percentage (.217) of the match.?"I don't think there was anything that we did different. There was no magic potion on that one. Just hard work, sticking to the game plan. That's probably where I'm most proud of the team: sticking to the game plan," Jennings said.
In addition to Ficek's 23 kills, the Huskies got 16 kills (and just one error) from Rokosh, who hit an impressive .455. Kienna Sharp added 11 kills. Haben had 49 assists for a weekend total of 100.
Defensively, four Huskies had digs in double digits, led by Aird's 17. Ficek had 15 and Haben and Pohlod 13.?"Rachel Pohlod is maybe the most underrated player out there right now. She's just getting the balls left and right and keeping rallies alive and that's how you generate points. Keeping the ball off the ground and giving your offense another shot," Jennings said.
The Huskies (5-6, 2-0 GLIAC) still have three more home matches in the next nine days, starting with a Friday night encounter against Ashland.