HOUGHTON, Mich. – The Michigan Tech volleyball team suffered a 3-2 defeat to the Malone Pioneers at home tonight. The teams traded victories throughout the match, as Malone won the first (25-19), third (25-22) and fifth sets (15-8), with Michigan Tech earning victories in set two (25-15) and four (25-20).
"First of all, credit goes out to Malone. They have a style of play that works for them; a slower, more methodical style of play," said head coach Matt Jennings. "We scouted them and we knew it was coming, but we fell into that trap from the outset. In that first set, we were ready, but we weren't disciplined."
The Huskies held an early 5-4 advantage in the first set, but never led again, as the visitors gained and maintained the lead by compiling a .333 hitting percentage on the way to a 25-19 win. Freshman outside hitter Aubrey Ficek was a bright spot for Tech, registering four service aces.
After falling behind by three points (9-6) in set two, Michigan Tech rallied off eight straight points – seven of which came with junior Kienna Sharp serving - to take a lead they would not relinquish in a 25-15 victory. The Huskies were sharp on the attack, recording a .518 hitting percentage. Freshman outside hitter Kendall Ward and Ficek both finished with five kills in the set, while senior setter Madeline Haben totaled 14 assists.
The third set was tightly contested throughout, with multiple ties and lead changes. The two teams were squared up at 18-18 when the Pioneers rallied off four straight points to take the lead. Tech would close the gap to one point at 23-22 on a play that started with a diving save by sophomore Jacqueline Aird and was followed by a big block by sophomore Sylvie Rokosh, but Malone recorded the final two points to secure the 25-22 win.
The Pioneers jumped out to an early 7-1 lead in the fourth set, but Michigan Tech battled all the way back to grab the lead at 16-15 following two consecutive kills by Ward. From there, the Huskies would notch nine of the final 14 points to take the set. Ward had nine kills in the set with no errors, including the winning point.
Malone maintained control through much of the fifth and final set. A kill by Ficek got Tech within two points at 10-8, but the Pioneers rallied off five straight points to earn the win.
"Our message this year, especially this week, has been finding consistency," said Jennings. "If you take our best sets from a scattering of matches, we can beat anyone in this conference, and that's what we're working for."
Ward led the way offensively for the Huskies, registering 24 kills and just two errors on 43 attempts for a .512 hitting percentage. Ficek chipped in with 16 kills and Haben recorded 51 assists. Aird and Rachel Pohlod each had 15 digs for Michigan Tech.
The Huskies fall to 7-11 overall (4-5 GLIAC) with the loss.
Michigan Tech will hit the road next weekend for contests at Tiffin (Oct. 18) and Ohio Dominican (Oct. 19).