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Michigan Tech volleyball sweeps Lakers

HOUGHTON — For the Michigan Tech Huskies volleyball team, defeating the Lake Superior State Lakers 25-20, 25-15, and 25-12, Saturday in the SDC Gym was a smaller highlight than it would normally have been.

Sunday, the Huskies swept the Lakers again, 25-13, 25-23, 25-10.

Just getting the chance to play a match meant so much more to the team.

“I think we started out a little shaky,” said senior outside hitter Anna Jonynas. “I think we came together and we played through every point just as if we never left the court. As if there wasn’t a more-than-a-year break in between our last match and this one.

“I think, (with this) being our first match, we all were a little bit shaky. Just to get back out there and play someone who wasn’t ourselves, it was just a great feeling to be back out there.”

Their head coach Matt Jennings agreed.

“Man, that was fun,” he said. “We got to play. We got that one under our belt. It happened. It was real. It was not long ago that we did not know when we would play our next match, so that was a lot of fun to see and to be a part of.”

The Huskies hit .252 over the course of the three sets, which was good enough to win the match, but Jennings admitted there was plenty of room for improvement, which he feels will come with game experience.

Considering the fact that the Huskies had not played a match since Dec. 6, 2019, having four senior starters on the court while the team sorted itself out helped them get through their early match jitters.

“We knew we were going to have to fight off some nerves and just get through finding our rhythm and feeling comfortable out there,” Jennings said, “catching that rhythm, catching up with that moment, and just maintaining. That was the word we kept using out there, just maintaining.”

Senior outside hitter Anna Jonynas led the way with seven kills in the first set and a match-high 13 kills on the day. Orland Park, Illinois, native chipped in everywhere she could. She racked up a .333 hitting percentage, eight digs, a service ace, and two block assists.

She was also just happy to chip in wherever she could.

“It feels really good to be able to help wherever I can,” Jonynas said.

Adding to Jonynas’ totals were senior outside hitter Olivia Ghormley, who had 10 kills, freshman outside hitter Sarah Knoll, who had seven kills, and junior middle blocker Janie Grindland, who had six kills and five block assists.

On Sunday, Ghormley had a strong day for the Huskies, picking up 12 kills to lead everyone in the match. Jonynas chipped in 11 kills, 17 digs, and three blocks. Senior libero Megan Utlak had 19 digs. De Marchi had 11 digs and 32 assists.

Senior setter Laura De Marchi enjoys having so many targets to work with when she sets the ball. With some of the team’s freshmen stepping in so early, she believes that they will help push the veterans to play hard.
“They are pushing us every day,” she said. “They are young. They have a lot of excitement and a lot of will to play. I think it is very good for us as a team to keep pushing and never take a day off.

“They are doing very (well), and I think you are going to see more of them throughout the season.”

De Marchi finished her night with 33 assists and six digs.

The Huskies and Lakers fought through a tough first set and through about half of the second set, including a stretch where the set was tied 8-8 and 9-9, before Grindland’s impact in the middle started to affect the outcome.

Jennings was proud of his third-year blocker, who had only seen limited action over her first two seasons in Black and Gold. He feels she is already helping to establish a positive culture on and off the court.

“Janie has become a very important part of our team culture, our team energy, our team attitude, and our team chemistry,” said Jennings. “In transition, she is hard to stop. She is so fast, she is so strong. She did a really good job, especially those second two sets.”

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