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MTU volleyball sweeps in NCAA opener

Huskies’ first NCAA tourney win since 1995

The Michigan Tech volleyball team celebrates during a NCAA Midwest Regional quarterfinal match against Missouri-St. Louis on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019, in Romeoville, Ill. (Michigan Tech University/Courtesy Photo)

ROMEOVILLE, Ill. — The No. 23-ranked Michigan Tech volleyball team swept No. 22 Missouri-St. Louis in the NCAA Midwest Regional quarterfinal on Thursday.

The win was the Huskies’ first tournament win since 1995.

Tech dominated with scores 25-16, 25-12, and 25-16 at Neil Carey Arena on the campus of Lewis University.

“I’m thrilled with the win,” Tech coach Matt Jennings said. “This is something as a team we’ve worked very hard for. I couldn’t be prouder of my players and our team. We’re honored to win for our university and move on. We played very hard and played together as a team and that’s what you love to see at this point in the season.”

The Huskies improved to 24-7 overall and will play No. 10 Hillsdale in the regional semifinal at 6 p.m. Friday.

Tech jumped out to an early lead in the first set thanks to a pair of kills by MacAulay Petersen. The Huskies never trailed in the set and maintained at least a three-point cushion, using a late rally for a 25-16 win.

The No. 3-seed Tritons (29-5) held their only real lead of the match early in the second at 4-1. The Huskies responded by scoring nine of the next 10 and then went on a 10-1 run to take a commanding 21-8 lead and cruised to the 2-0 lead with a 25-12 win. The defense forced the Tritons into seven attacking errors and got offensive contributions from Courtney Kurkie with a pair of kills and a block.

“To see Courtney and Kristine (Fink) come and play like that today will be a lasting memory for us from today,” added Jennings. “Courtney chose to come back for a fifth year and for her to contribute today was big for us. The team has rallied around our seniors at this point in the season.”

The Huskies built a 6-1 lead to begin the third set and continued its dominant play, as the Tritons burned through timeouts and subs to try and kill the momentum. Olivia Ghormley found her groove in the third with five kills, including the game-winner for the 25-16 win.

Petersen led a balanced offense with 10 kills while hitting .400. Ghormley finished with eight kills, while Rachel Ping and Anna Jonynas added six kills each.

“It feels so amazing,” Petersen said. “This is something that none of us have been a part of getting a win here. For us to win for our school and get another banner in the Wood Gym means so much, and I’m so excited to keep playing.

“They probably felt how we did in 2017 and when it’s your first time in the tournament it’s a different stage. I think that’s where our experience came in to play today.”

Laura De Marchi set the attack with 29 assists while adding nine digs, five kills, and three blocks.

“We wanted to play with each other and play for each other, and we did that very well today,” De Marchi said. “We’re so proud and grateful to be here and have another opportunity to play in the NCAA and we showed that.”

Jonynas paced the defense with 19 digs while Ghormley and Megan Utlak added a dozen digs each. Ping dominated the net with six blocks with Emilia Widen adding three blocks and three kills.

Hillsdale defeated Indianapolis in a five-set thriller in the second match of the day. The Chargers are the No. 2 seed in the region and hold a 27-3 record.

“Hillsdale is a really good team and one of the best in the region,” said Jennings. “It’s going to be a close game. We’re excited to be in the next round and it’s a whole new season tomorrow.”

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