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De Marchi, MTU split against NMU for share of GLIAC title

Michigan Tech outside hitter Anna Jonynas bumps the ball against Northern Michigan on Friday, April 2, 2021, in Houghton, Mich. (David Archambeau/For the Gazette)

HOUGHTON — Coming into the weekend, with the GLIAC volleyball regular season title on the line, three things were known for certain, Michigan Tech Huskies star outside hitter Olivia Ghormley was not available due to injury and, barring injury, setter Laura De Marchi was going to reach a pair of milestones in a match against the Northern Michigan Wildcats at the SDC Gym Friday night.

The Huskies dropped Saturday’s match against the Wildcats, which gave them a share of the GLIAC title with the Wildcats.

After one set, De Marchi sat just 11 assists away from setting a new school record. She set the new record in the second set on a kill by outside hitter Anna Jonynas. In the same set, she reached 1,000 digs.

Combined with Jonynas’ match-high 22 kills, the duo lifted the Huskies to a four-set victory, 23-25, 25-17, 25-14, 25-11.

It wasn’t until after the match was over that De Marchi even knew she had reached the 1,000-dig plateau. Setting a school record by finishing with 51 assists and racking up 12 digs, De Marchi was proud to chip in on the Huskies’ home victory in front of fans.

“I am very grateful,” said De Marchi. “Playing Northern is the best game of the year, no matter what. It’s always a close game and it is always fun. To be able to reach that against Northern, at home, in front of all of our friends, all of my teammates that have supported me throughout this whole thing, my teammates’ parents that just gave me an extra hug after games for so many years. I am just so grateful to be able to celebrate that in front of everybody. 

“I am also happy for my parents. They knew it was coming and they stayed up until 1:30 a.m. to watch the game.”

Huskies coach Matt Jennings was excited to have his senior setter set important individual marks while also defeating the rival Wildcats.

“I think, for this season, our passing is the area where we have been trying to get better,” Jennings said. “When Laura gets good passing, she is next level. When we get poor passing or mediocre passing, she takes us to another level; gets us in system. When she gets passing like she got (Friday), Laura just makes hitters better.”

Jonynas, a senior, knew she was going to have to step up with Ghormley out of the lineup. Through two sets, she had just 10 kills. In the third set, she took control of the match, picking up eight kills, setting the tone for the remainder of the match.

“I feel like I filled in decently,” Jonynas said. “I think we did a good job of all coming together and chipping in where we could.”

The Huskies got off to a slow start. The Wildcats’ high-tempo offense had them looking sluggish. After a service ace from Jacqueline Smith, the Huskies trailed 18-11. 

Junior middle blocker Janie Grindland, who finished with seven kills, two solo blocks and three block assists, helped drive the Huskies back into the match with a pair of service aces. The Huskies used that momentum to even things at 23-23 before dropping two straight points to lose the set.

However, the comeback proved to the team that they could keep up with the Wildcats.

“They play a very fast tempo,” said De Marchi. “We knew, at the beginning, that we kind of had to adjust to that. 

“We expected to struggle at the beginning. The push at the end of the set was just us catching up to their tempo and then just playing our game.”

From there, the Huskies’ block, which has improved every season under Jennings, got to work. Five different players, including Grindland and De Marchi got involved with multiple block assists and both Grindland and De Marchi racked up solo blocks to help the Huskies’ cause.

“This is the best year we’ve blocked,” said Jennings. “A large part of that is Janie, Morgan (Radtke) and Jill (Kuizenga). Those three have really added a lot to our block.”

As the match went along, freshmen outside hitters Lindy Oujiri and Kuizenga both found ways to contribute. Oujiri, playing for the first time since Feb. 28, when she got into one set against Northwood, picked up 13 kills, including seven in the final set, and she chipped in three block assists.

Jennings was proud of the way Oujiri made adjustments in the first set and became a key component of the Huskies’ offense afterwards.

“Lindy, we tried to boost her confidence a little bit, and she had a great week of practice,” Jennings said. “That first set, you could kind of see her working through some things. Once she got that confidence… she really came up with some big plays.”

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