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Errors cost Huskies in GLIAC title loss to Bulldogs

Michigan Tech senior Anna Jonynas (6) hits the ball against Ferris State during the GLIAC tournament championship on Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, in Houghton, Mich. (David Archambeau/For the Gazette)

HOUGHTON — Volleyball, especially at the collegiate level is a game of errors, just ask the No. 20 Michigan Tech Huskies team.

With the GLIAC Tournament title on the line, and the score tied at 14-14 in the fifth set, the Huskies committed a costly error from which they could not recover Sunday at the SDC Gym.

The Huskies fell to their downstate rivals, the Ferris State Bulldogs in five sets, 25-21, 21-25, 25-15, 19-25, 14-16, proving that they still have some things to learn about how to win at tournament time.

Michigan Tech (24-6 overall) had fought back from a 10-5 deficit in the final set to tie the match at 13-13 and then again at 14-14. Fifth year setter Laura De Marchi was handed the ball. She dropped back into position to serve like she has so many times in her career. 

That was when something went wrong and she fired off a serve that passed the back line on the Bulldogs’ side, creating a side out and putting Ferris State within a point of sealing another GLIAC Tournament title, which they secured on the next point.

“It’s a heartbreaker, for sure,” said fifth year defensive specialist Megan Utlak. “We’re obviously really disappointed, but we left our hearts on the floor. That was a great match overall. We had a lot of people really step up.

“We lost that match by two points. It doesn’t get much tighter than that. Our performance couldn’t have been much better than that.” 

In De Marchi’s defense, she was not alone on the day. The Huskies had eight other service errors in the match. The Bulldogs had nine as well, but the bulk of theirs seemed to come in the opening set, while the Huskies’ came in unfortunate moments.

GLIAC Player of the Year Anna Jonynas led the Huskies with 17 kills on the day, including four in the fifth set. 

“It was pretty frustrating, but I think (it cannot) be ignored how well we did, how many big plays our defense made, and how much we backed each other with every play,” Jonynas said. “I mean, we came up from a deficit, and we just ended up falling short. It was a well-fought match for sure.”

Jonynas felt that her teammates were key in helping her push through some struggles in the middle of the match so that she could finish strong.

“I feel like it was my teammates,” she said. “That kind of helped with waning confidence in moments, especially in big moments like that, where it’s easy to lose track of your mindset.”

With the team undermanned due to injuries, two Huskies stepped up and performed very well throughout the afternoon. Junior middle blocker Morgan Radtke finished with 13 kills and three block assists. Sophomore outside hitter Lindy Oujiri was also strong, racking up 14 kills.

“They’re the first to know how excited I am,” said Utlak. “I am always in both of their ears just super, super pumped about the performances they gave. Both of them really stepped up and just kind of gave us a spark in situations where we really needed it.”

Oujiri, who is working to make the most of her opportunity with fifth year outside hitter Olivia Ghormley out of the lineup, came up with timely hits throughout the day.

“Everyone on the court stepped it up in big ways and made big-time plays,” Jonynas said. “Lindy had so many good shots and could not be defended.”

The Huskies struggled throughout the day to contain the Bulldogs’ Katie O’Connell, who had a match-high 25 kills, 24 digs, a solo block and three block assists. She racked up six of her kills in the fifth set.

While they did not get the outcome they wanted, the Huskies were excited about getting the chance to beat the Bulldogs on their home floor, rather than having to travel to do so.

“That was awesome, for sure,” Utlak said. “We’re kind of sick and tired of going down to Big Rapids, so that was awesome to be able to stay home and have everybody else drive up, get to sleep in our own beds and have our fans support us from our gym. That was very special. 

“To have the Pep Band come out and support us every time is really awesome for us.”

The Bulldogs have now won 20 straight matches since losing to the Huskies, 3-0, on Sept. 19 

Michigan Tech awaits the NCAA selection show Monday at 7:30 p.m. to see if they are going to host the Midwest Regional, or if they will have to travel. The Huskies came into the GLIAC Tournament with a 22-5 record in region play. The Bulldogs came into the weekend as the No. 2 seed with a record of 18-3 in region play.

Huskies defeat Panthers in semifinals

The Huskies bounced back from a 25-16 loss in the opening set Saturday to earn a four-set victory over the fourth-seeded Davenport Panthers, 25-14, 25-21, 27-25.

Jonynas led the way for the Huskies with a team-high 21 kills. Sophomore right side hitter Jillian Kuizenga added 16 kills, including the final four Huskies’ points.

For Kuizenga, helping her fifth year teammates get a GLIAC Tournament win at home was very exciting.

“That’s that’s the ultimate goal,” she said. “Personally, that’s what I play for. Last year, it didn’t go  our way, and because of the way things turned out, we get another chance. That’s my ultimate goal is to see these fifth years get what they deserve.”

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