DeMarchi making an impact for Michigan Tech volleyball

David Archambeau/Daily Mining Gazette Michigan Tech’s Laura DeMarchi sets a pass against Ashland at the Wood Gym, Oct. 6, 2017.

HOUGHTON — Normally if a college volleyball team like the Michigan Tech Huskies — who had aspirations of making the NCAA Tournament before the season began — bring freshmen in, it takes a while for those youngsters to work their way into a lineup. With four seniors on roster, a junior and a sophomore at outside hitter, it would seem that there is little to no space for a freshman to play, let alone lead.

Yet, that is exactly what is happening with the Huskies.

The Huskies, who are 11-6 overall and 6-3 in GLIAC play, are seeded third in the conference as they head to Aurora, Ill. for the Midwest Region Crossover. A major reason for that high seed is the play of freshman setter Laura DeMarchi.

When informed earlier this week that she leads the GLIAC in assists per set (11.91) and sits fifth nationally in the same category, even the youngster was blown away by the news and also quick to mention who she feels is allowing her to be successful.

“No I did not,” said DeMarchi when asked if she imagined that she would be as effective as she has been. “That’s pretty sweet. If I am doing so good, it is because I have team to support me. I have great passers who get me the ball in great condition to set at the best of my abilities every time. I am just doing my job as best I can and I have great outsides, right sides and middle blockers so that we can swing and score every time.”

A late addition in the recruiting process for this season, DeMarchi — who thought she would get some playing time this season, but not necessarily start — impressed head coach Matt Jennings and his staff enough for them to offer her the chance to play at Michigan Tech. However, they had no idea that a few months later, they would be witness to what the Milan, Italy, native has already accomplished.

“When Laura came to visit, we knew a couple of things: one, that she was a very good volleyball player, and two, that she was a very good student,” said Jennings. “To say that we expected her to come and start like this and do the things that she is doing, no, we did not expect that at all.”

DeMarchi is very quick to suggest that she is not the reason the Huskies’ offense is clicking, but rather that is the leadership she and her three classmates are getting from the deep senior class that features defensive specialists Elle Heinonen and Halie Hart and middle blockers Stephanie Dietrich and Lauren Emmert.

“We have four seniors on the team and they are helping us in a lot of ways,” said DeMarchi. “They know what Matt is looking for, they also know what the team is looking for. They remind us every day that we have to get better and we have to improve.”

DeMarchi, for whom English is a second language, knows a language that is universal: volleyball. While the terminology is different, the game is fundamentally the same, and that knowledge has freed her up to play the way she feels comfortable.

“At the end, it is just names,” said DeMarchi. “Volleyball is always volleyball, so it doesn’t matter how you call something. Once you get used to how to call something, it just goes back to being volleyball.”

What makes DeMarchi’s play so impressive, according to Jennings, is that she does not react to the game as it plays out, but rather acts in a proactive manner, allowing her to set the tone for how a point will go.

By processing information from all sides of the floor before touching the ball, DeMarchi is able to decide on the fly whether to go to the strong side hitters, back off to the weak side hitter or even just dump the ball herself.

She admits it took years of training to figure it all out.

“It is something that my coaches always taught me,” said DeMarchi. “It’s a matter of if you put one of your attackers here, the blocker is going to follow them. If you move your best two attackers to the left side of the court, your right attacker is going to have a better chance to score.”

Demarchi leads the GLIAC in assists per set, with nearly a full assist more than Maeve Grimes of Ferris State, a sophomore who is averaging 11.25 assists per set. Nationally, DeMarchi is fifth behind Marina Hansen of the Colorado School of Mines, Elizabeth Mohr of Concordia-St. Paul, Emily Torve of Minnesota-Duluth and Megan Larson of Southwest Minnesota State.

With the Huskies’ high seed heading into the Midwest Crossover, she could have the chance to see the three girls from the Northern Sun Conference (Mohr, Torve and Larson).

In the Midwest Crossover, the Huskies will face Bellarmine and Drury on Friday at 12:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. On Saturday, the Huskies will face former GLIAC member Findlay at 2 p.m.