Huskies ride 7-match win streak into Regional Crossover tourney
HOUGHTON — Thanks to a three-set victory over the Northern Michigan Wildcats, the Michigan Tech Huskies volleyball team improved to 7-1 in the GLIAC and kept their hot streak running at 11 wins in their last 12 matches.
The run has put them on the map nationally, as they debuted this week at No. 25.
More importantly, the win against the Wildcats sealed the top spot in the GLIAC heading into this weekend’s Midwest Crossover in Hammond, Indiana. For their efforts, the Huskies are set to face the No. 16 Lewis Flyers, the top seed from the GLVC, the Missouri S&T Miners, and the No. 17 Hillsdale Chargers, the top seed in the G-MAC.
For head coach Matt Jennings, getting the chance to face the top seeds from both the GLVC and the G-MAC is a huge one for his program, which is looking to make up for early-season losses to Minnesota State, St. Cloud State, and Concordia-St. Paul heading into the second half of the GLIAC season.
“I’m certainly grateful that we get the opportunity to play the other top teams in (their) leagues,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to show what we’re made of against what is considered, I guess, the other top teams…at this point, Lewis and Hillsdale, in particular, are both very good teams, that I think we were looking forward to having the chance to play, if we had that opportunity.”
Huskies on a roll
Jennings is the first to admit that he feels that the Huskies are playing some very good volleyball at this point in the season, as evidenced by the way they were able to shut down the Wildcats before they could build up any confidence.
“Look, we were playing pretty well, right now, and I think we’re playing pretty confidently,” he said. “To see us continue to go out and, I think, perform in the way that we hope to is a good thing. I mean, Northern is a good team that we certainly get up to play against. I think we saw a pretty good version of ourselves on Saturday. It feels pretty good.”
In Saturday’s win, the Huskies got 16 kills from fifth year outside hitter Anna Jonynas, 11 from sophomore right side Jillian Kuizenga, seven from fifth year outside hitter Olivia Ghormley and six from senior middle blocker Janie Grindland. Fifth year setter Laura De Marchi added four of her own to help balance the offense from several angles.
Jennings is excited to see so much balance in the Huskies’ attack.
“I think each and every weekend, we seem to be able to find ways for multiple people to contribute in important ways,” he said. “That certainly is the case on the offensive side, when we have as many points-scorers, or the kind of point-scorers we have, and the setter that we do. Laura does a great job of getting her attackers involved the right way, and at the right times. To see them execute at the level that they have been, certainly, as encouraging.”
Spreading the offense around is something that the Huskies have been working hard to do all season. That being said, having a weapon like Jonynas to go to certainly helps.
“Any time we can spread it out is going to be good for us,” said Jennings. “Even so, there’s just a lot of different parts of the game that she contributes to. So it’s gonna seem like there’s a lot that she’s doing each and every game, but our offense is pretty spread out at both pins in the middle.
“When our ball control is on, we can get those options involved more often as a result.”
In the second set Saturday, the Huskies pushed the Wildcats back on their heels, and after a tight first set that saw the Huskies win, 27-25, the second set went quickly as the Huskies rolled to a 25-13 win.
“I think we just continued to work to get better, get more in rhythm as the match went on, and stay in control of the ball in the back court so that we could have options in the front court,” Jennings said, “I think, frankly, Northern really started to slow down as the game went on, as we were starting to get rolling. I think the outcome was a reflection of that.”
Seeing the top seed in the GLVC and the G-MAC, and the Miners, who are the No. 2 seed out of the GLVC, is a testament to how hard the Huskies have been working, according to Jennings.
“The work that the girls have put together so far in the first half, I think, reflects us being in that top seat at the GLIAC,” he said.
While the Chargers and the Flyers are both the top teams in their respective conferences, the Miners are also a solid squad, having beaten the Flyers in the GLVC Tournament in the spring to advance to the tournament finale.
The Flyers come into the Crossover sporting a 14-4 record that includes a 9-1 record in GLVC play. Their only in-conference loss came in the three sets to the Wayne State College Wildcats. They enter the Crossover having swept the Miners on Saturday.
Lewis is a team the Huskies have seen multiple times in the NCAA Tournament as well.
“Lewis would be a great win,” said Jennigns. “It’s a great program that has done very well for some time. We’ve faced them in the NCAAs a couple of times already. I think if we’re playing our game, and on point, it should be a great matchup. I think both teams can do a lot of good things.”
The Miners come into the Crossover with a 12-5 record overall and 6-3 in GLVC play. They have beaten Purdue Northwest and Illinois-Springfield this year, but fell Saturday to Lewis.
The Chargers are 16-2 on the season and 9-0 in G-MAC play. They have beaten Lake Erie and Davenport this season and are going to face Ferris State later this month. Hillsdale comes into the Crossover having won 14 straight matches.
The Huskies will face the Flyers at 12 p.m. Friday and the Miners at 7 p.m. On Saturday, the Huskies will face the Chargers at 1:45 p.m.