Huskies return home looking to build off of recent successes
HOUGHTON — Having played 16 matches to this point, Michigan Tech Huskies volleyball coach Matt Jennings feels that, for the most part, the Huskies have deserved their fate, going 10-6. However, they have played more consistent volleyball of late, winning four of their last six matches.
The Huskies took a three-set victory from Lake Superior State on Friday and followed that up with winning the first set Saturday at Ferris State. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs stormed back, winning the next three sets to earn the match victory.
“Friday was a good showing overall,” he said. “I mean, I think we were the better team, and I think that showed it the way we played.
“Ferris State is very, very good this year. We played pretty well, the first set, but they didn’t. We tried to prepare for them cleaning up their side going into the next sets. They certainly did do that, and we struggled to keep up.”
Part of the reason for the recent success the Huskies have had has been the play of freshman outside hitter Makenna Wesol. Wesol saw very limited action through the first 13 matches, only getting on the floor in four of them, playing a total of five sets in those four matches.
Then she got a chance against Wisconsin-Parkside on Sept. 24, and she was instrumental, as Jennings put it, in helping drive the Huskies’ comeback.
Friday against the Lakers, she racked 12 kills to lead all hitters in the match. Jennings feels that if she can sustain hitting .370 or better, she will be successful in the GLIAC.
“She’s produced double-digit kills for us each night,” Jennings said. “For her to sustain .380 hitting or above would have been asking a lot.
Saturday, she got off to a good start, finishing with 10 kills. However, she also committed 10 errors, five of which came from the way the Bulldogs blocked her.
“Ferris State is the kind of team that would kind of put her back to earth a little bit in terms of the errors,” said Jennings. “I think she had 10 errors, and maybe half of them were blocks. Ferris really does a good job of changing your game, or forcing you into some situations that maybe aren’t advantageous, but really, she’s doing a good job. This kind of experience is going to pay off, I think, a great deal for her now, but also going forward.”
On the other side of the court, junior right side hitter Jillian Kuizenga struggled a bit from a production standpoint, getting just six kills against the Lakers and eight against the Bulldogs. Despite the numbers, Jennings feels like she is learning how to deal with double coverage and he expects her to continue to be a factor moving forward.
“She’s getting double blocked more often than she may have before, given the attention other hitters took away from her,” Jennings said. “She’s doing a good job, I think, learning how to adapt.”
Jennings also likes how Kuizenga is taking on more of a leadership role off the court, acting like an assistant coach of sorts for some of her younger teammates.
“I see her stepping up in a kind of…it may not be obvious to everyone outside looking in, but she’s in the ear of our younger players, trying to boost them up,” he said. “Talk him up a little bit and connect with some of our younger players too.”
With the split, the Huskies are now 4-5 in GLIAC play, which puts them sixth in the conference heading into this weekend, where they will see the only two teams they have not played yet in the Saginaw Valley State Cardinals on Friday and the Wayne State Warriors on Saturday. Both teams are 5-4 in conference play.
The Warriors are a strong blocking team, which has given the Huskies fits to this point in the season. The Cardinals are also strong on the block, but Jennings feels that his team will be ready for the challenge.
“I think the three of us are probably pretty close in overall ability at the moment right now,” Jennings said. “Both are good defensive teams, especially Wayne on the blocking side of the ball. Saginaw is gonna have a good blocking team as well.
Both of those teams have some experience that they bring along with them, that is going to help them in those moments that are tricky and tough.”
Friday matchup with the Cardinals is set to start at 5 p.m. Friday at the SDC Gym. Saturday’s match is scheduled for 4 p.m. against the Warriors.