HOUGHTON - There would be no happy ending for the four Michigan Tech seniors playing their last home volleyball match Saturday, as No. 16 Grand Valley State made its league-leading presence felt in a 3-0 (25-14, 25-18, 25-13) sweep.
But Tessa Mauer, Abby DeWitt, Jordanna Kero and Madeline Haben got to take a bow and be recognized for their efforts in bridging this transitional era for the Husky program.
"The word resilience is often used in our team and some times I think a little too much or in the wrong way, but I think that senior class, they're a resilient group," Tech coach Matt Jennings said.
"The desire to get back out there and make right impressed me incredibly, and the selflessness in which they have gone about this transition is something I will never forget."
All four saw time Saturday, with Mauer serving an ace, Kero posting a pair of kills and Haben directing the offense with 22 assists in addition to nine digs.
However, the Huskies' collective intensity and quality were not the same as the night before against Ferris State, and Jennings said he noticed it from the first ball, a play in which Rachel Pohlod served the Lakers, the best-passing team in the GLIAC, out of system but the Huskies did not capitalize.
"To be totally honest with you, it was at that point that I knew. The one thing we didn't think we'd get any of, we got on the first play and we just watched it," he said.
GVSU, which after this weekend leads the GLIAC alone a full game ahead of Ferris and Northern Michigan, scored the next three points after that and never trailed at any time Saturday.
The Lakers committed eight hitting errors for the day and hit .323, while Tech's best set was an .095.
Among the bright spots was sophomore Sylvie Rokosh, who bounced back well from a tough night against Ferris to post a team co-leading seven kills on 17 attacks with a single error.
"Sylvie had a great match. That young woman continues to impress me each and every day that I get to encounter her, whether it's here in meetings or on the court," Jennings said.
Kendall Ward, a freshman, also had seven kills for Tech.
Haben has been a fixture at the center of the Tech offense for more than 300 sets, with more than 2,000 assists. Her impact is not lost on Jennings, who in addition to himself, has multiple family members who have played the position at a high level.
"I really have an admiration for the position, and I don't know if I've ever been around a setter that works harder and 'gets it' more than Maddie Haben. She's sincerely and wholeheartedly admired by every single one of her teammates, whether she gets out of them what she needs, they all look up to that girl so much. It has nothing to do with her words, but her actions and her work ethic."
Tech, now 9-16 (5-8 GLIAC) plays its last five matches on the road, starting with Tuesday at Northern Michigan. The postseason is increasingly remote, but there are still high stakes, Jennings said.
"I sense that this could be a transition year from old to new. Just like at the end of a set you're losing, you want to build momentum going into the next set that you're gonna play. That's what I'm looking for. I'm looking for some fight, I'm looking for some people who have lost their desire to dig deep and get dirty and make some sacrifices to make them because the group we have coming in and the group we have at a young point on this team are going to do some special things. The tougher we get in this environment, the better we're going to be next year and the year after and the year after. The word is fight. Let's fight. It's all we've got left."