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Ghormley, Petersen mash MTU to victory over Golden Eagles

Michigan Tech’s Laura De Marchi, left, Olivia Ghormley, center, and Janie Grindland confer during a game on Friday in Houghton. (David Archambeau/The Daily Mining Gazette)

HOUGHTON — Looking to continue their early-season success as part of the Keweenaw Volleyball Classic, the Michigan Tech Huskies volleyball team turned to their top outside hitters, juniors Olivia Ghormley and MacAulay Petersen, to carry the load, and the duo answered the bell, racking up a combined 30 kills as the Huskies earned their third straight victory Friday evening over the Minnesota-Crookston Golden Eagles.

The Huskies won by scores of 25-10, 25-12 and 25-18.

Head coach Matt Jennings was pleased with the effort he got from his team’s two starting outsides throughout the evening.

“(Olivia) and Mac really put it on tonight,” he said. “That’s 30 kills I think between the two of them just just one or two errors. I mean, that’s big time. They got going.

After a slow start in the afternoon against Mary, the Huskies wanted to come out in the evening with more attention to detail, and that showed almost immediately as senior middle Rachel Ping picked up two kills in the middle of the court in the opening set.

Two volleys later, Ghormley, who finished with a season-high 20 kills, bumped one back over her head for her first kill of the night. She racked up six more before the first set ended.

“I think as we start going into the season more, and we’re playing together more, I’m able to understand where Laura is setting the ball and where Bri(ana Sharkey) is setting the ball, my court awareness starts to open up as the season goes on. Hopefully that continues throughout the season.”

To prove that she was in a groove, she picked up six more to help the Huskies (3-0 overall) take a 10-6 advantage. As the Golden Eagles struggled to find a way to match up against her, Ghormley continued to score, adding three more kills in the set.

“The middles and Laura definitely opened up the court,” Ghormley said. “So it was nice to be able to have one-on-ones.”

Ghormley was not the only recipient of accurate setting from junior setter Laura De Marchi, who finished her night with 41 assists. Petersen, who often shared the court with Ghormley, gave the Huskies multiple scoring options. She had four kills in the first set before settling into the second set and picking up three more kills in the late stages.

She finished her night with 10.

For Petersen, who missed nearly all of 2018 due to injury, it was only a matter of time before things would start to click for her.

“It felt really good,” she said. “A lot of the girls were talking to me, ‘it’s all in your head, it’s on your head.’ I think just had to get over that hump, that initial hump, of playing for the first time in essentially a year. So it felt it felt really good.

“I feel like it took me like all three sets to finally get there, but it felt good. Especially with Laura feeding me the ball. I felt more confident.”

Petersen spent much of last season as a coach of sorts for Ghormley. Getting to share the court Friday night was very exciting for both of them.

“It is so awesome,” Ghormley said. “She is such a light on the court and even my freshman year I wasn’t able to play on the same side as her, so it’s been awesome to be able to play with her.”

While the offense was clicking in ways that made Jennings pleased, he was also very excited about the efforts of the defense, which held the Golden Eagles (1-1 overall) to an attack percentage of -.086 in the second set after holding them to a .077 percentage in the first set.

Late in the second set, Jennings utilized his bench, giving his two younger middle blockers, freshman Morgan Radtke and sophomore Janie Grindland, a chance to get some valuable experience.

Radtke had a block kill and finished with four kills in the match. Grindland added two kills and an ace.

Jennings was pleased with both players.

“Jamie is a really good middle,” he said. “She’s got a really fast arm and she’s going to do a lot of good things for us here at Tech. To see her and Morgan get in along with our two senior middles is a good thing. We’re really happy with our middle core right now. All four of them are playing at a pretty high level.”

Huskies sweep Mary

Coming off of an emotional win over No. 9 Southwest Minnesota State on Thursday, the Huskies looked a bit sluggish early on in their first match Friday against Mary.

The Huskies picked up the pace quickly with a sweep (25-23, 25-19, 25-14).

Ghormley led the Huskies with 12 kills in the match and Ping added two aces.

Defensively, the Huskies were paced by junior libero Megan Utlak, who had 18 digs to lead all players in the match.

“This morning, (we got) off to a little bit of some slow start, but the way we responded I was really happy with,” said Jennings. “We asked the team just keep working through some things and we did. I think we got sharp by the end of that first one, got a lot of different people in and got to see some different looks.”

While things were rough early, Jennings convinced the team to focus on ball control, which made a difference the longer the match went on.

“What I was asking them to do there is just keep working in and out, get that ball control,” he said. “It starts with ball control. We weren’t really passing very well, and we just couldn’t control the ball. Once that started to happen in the second set, we got a little bit better.”

The Huskies close out the Keweenaw Volleyball Classic at 7 p.m. Saturday against Upper Iowa.

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