MARQUETTE, MI – After an overall successful weekend to start the season, Michigan Tech volleyball returns to face a number of challenging regional opponents at the 2018 Wildcat Open, hosted by Northern Michigan.
Michigan Tech began the year by winning three out of four matches at the 2018 UAA Invitational, hosted by Alaska Anchorage. The Huskies defeated Alaska 3-2, won 3-1 over Western New Mexico, and swept Barton 3-0, and took Alaska Anchorage to the brink before falling 3-2 to the hosts.
"We have a lot to build off of from this tournament," head coach Matt Jennings said of his team's performance at the UAA Invitational. "I learned that when we are playing our game, we're a very good volleyball team and a tough team to play against."
The Huskies (3-1) take on four members of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference on Friday (Aug. 31) and Saturday (Sept. 1). Highlighting this week's slate is Minnesota-Duluth, the number one team in the country according to the latest AVCA Division II rankings. The Huskies last played the Bemidji State in the Keweenaw Classic last season, where they swept the Beavers. Meanwhile, the Huskies are 0-2 in their last two meetings against the Bulldogs in 2016 and 2017, being swept both times by the powerhouse program.
Saturday sees the Huskies take on St. Cloud State (1-1) at 11:00 a.m. and Minnesota-Crookston (1-3) at 3:00 p.m. The Huskies last faced St. Cloud State in the 2017 Keweenaw Classic, and the hosts had to hold off a furious rally from St. Cloud State before winning 3-2. As for the Minnesota-Crookston, these teams haven't met since 2013 when the Golden Eagles swept the Huskies.
"As a whole, the Northern Sun is probably the best conference in the country," Jennings added. "We've got to be ready, and have our game faces on. We're pretty familiar with some of these teams, so that's favorable for us."
Leading the way offensively for the Huskies is sophomore outside hitter Olivia Ghormley. Ghormley, who was named the UAA Invitational All-Tournament Team, leads the team and the conference in attacking efficiency for an outside hitter (.337) and kills (74) while only committing 15 errors. Ghormley set a new personal best with 30 kills in Tech's thrilling 3-2 defeat to Alaska Anchorage.
Senior Mariah Sherman (50 kills, .212 attack efficiency) and sophomore Anna Jonynas (52 kills, .131 attack efficiency) are also notable attackers for the Tech offense that averaged 14.29 kills per set against their opponents in Alaska. Returning GLIAC Freshman and Setter of the Year Laura DeMarchi continues to set her teammates up for success, tallying 183 assists and averaging 12.2 assists per set. DeMarchi, who leads the GLIAC in assists and assists per set, notched a personal best against Alaska Anchorage when she recorded 64 assists.
Defensively, the Huskies are sound, as they've forced their opponents into making 96 errors and limiting them to an attack efficiency of .155 while recording 318 digs. Leading the team in the backcourt is sophomore defensive specialist Megan Utlak. Named to the UAA Invitational All-Tournament Team, Utlak totaled 80 digs and 4.71 digs per set, good for first and third in the conference in each respective category. Jonynas is second on the team in digs with 70, and freshman outside hitter Maggie Petersen is contributing nicely in her first year with 41 digs thus far. Junior middle blocker Rachel Ping leads the team with 11 total blocks.
All the action can be followed online through links to live statistical updates and video streams, both available on the volleyball schedule page on MichiganTechHuskies.com.