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Huskies storm past Bulldogs in four sets

HOUGHTON — The Michigan Tech Huskies volleyball team, reduced to just nine players due to COVID-19 protocols, defeated the No. 25 Ferris State Bulldogs for the second straight day, 25-14, 25-17, 23-25, 25-13, Saturday at the SDC Gym.

For coach Matt Jennings, whose team had already beaten the Bulldogs Friday in five sets, the win on Saturday was a statement.

“For this team and this program, in this moment, it means a great deal,” said Jennings. “For the last few seasons, we’ve battled in the GLIAC and we’ve run into Ferris State at some point in the season. That’s been our biggest challenge so far. 

Senior outside hitter Olivia Ghormley had another strong day, racking up four of her 20 kills in the fourth set to help put an exclamation point on the victory. The fourth-year starter has been an impact player day in and day out for the Huskies. 

Her classmate, Anna Jonynas added 15 kills as well.

Almost as impressive as Ghormley’s effort was, and playing in just her third match of the season, freshman Jillian Kuizenga rolled through the match with another 15 kills. It was her second straight match with that total. The majority of her points came from the right side, which gave the Huskies a variety of attacks at the Bulldogs block and back line.

Also impressive for the Huskies (5-1, 5-1 GLIAC) were sophomore middle blocker Morgan Radtke and junior middle blocker Janie Grindland. Radtke had 10 kills and 3 block assists. Grindland racked up 8 kills and six block assists.

The combination of Grindland’s speed, both front to back and side to side, and Radtke’s range had made life difficult for opposing offenses. They combined to keep the Bulldogs to just 15 kills in the first two sets while they and their teammates combined to put up 36 of their own.

“It’s creating issues for all offenses, and making our defense in the back court just that much more confident, and able to make the plays that they are required to make,” said Jennings. “When the block is inconsistent, It really makes the backcourt defense much more challenging.

“Morgan’s has got a great reach and really big size. When you have her and Jill together. That’s a big block, and it’s helping on the left pins too. Our blocking has improved.”

Junior defensive specialist Maggie Petersen, who was appearing for just the fourth time in the past two seasons, chipped in with 14 digs, earning the team’s game ball afterwards for her efforts.

Junior setter Lina Espejo-Ramirez, a transfer from Midland College, shared the floor with senior Laura De Marchi. While it is far from normal to have two setters on the floor, Espejo-Ramirez’s defensive prowess helped the Huskies, as she had 11 digs and even added to the offense with a service ace.

After cruising through the first and second sets while keeping the Bulldogs (5-3, 5-3 GLIAC) on their heels, the Huskies struggled a little with the adjustments the visitors made in the third set. Twice late in the set, they found themselves down by multiple points, 20-18 and 23-20, but both times stormed back. Unfortunately, a service error by De Marchi gave the Bulldogs the advantage they needed to seal the win in the set.

The Huskies responded in the fourth set with a pair of early kills by Ghormley followed a little later by a pair each from Jonynas and Kuizenga kept the Bulldogs back on their heels. The Huskies pressed their advantage from there and never looked back to earn the win in the set and the match.

The Huskies will return to action Friday when they travel to face Saginaw Valley State.

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