INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The Michigan Tech volleyball team takes a break from their difficult GLIAC schedule to head to Indianapolis, Indiana to compete against some of the top teams in the region at the 2018 Midwest Regional Crossover.
Entering the inter-regional competition with a record of 16-3 overall and 10-1 in the GLIAC and the No. 25 ranking in the latest AVCA Division II coaches poll, the Huskies are coming off a pair of sweeps against Purdue Northwest and Parkside to bump their current winning streak to six matches.
Michigan Tech has a number of playmakers on offense and defense. Leading one of the top offenses in the country in assists per set (13.62, 7th) and kills per set (14.48, 9th) are sophomores Olivia Ghormley and Laura DeMarchi. Ghormley leads the GLIAC in kills per set (4.85) and total kills (344), and is ranked third in the county kills per set and kills, while DeMarchi leads the conference and ranks eighth in the country in assists per set (12.02), and stands second in the GLIAC in total assists (793).
Senior Mariah Sherman has also been an important piece of the high-powered Husky offense. Sherman, who earned her 1,000th career kill against Purdue Northwest, is eighth in the conference in both kills (228) and kills per set (3.21). Junior Emilia Widen ranks second in the conference in hitting percentage (.321), and sophomore Anna Jonynas leads the GLIAC in service aces (40) and aces per set (0.57).
The stout Michigan Tech defense enters this tournament allowing their opponents only 11.15 kills per set and an average hitting percentage of .148. From the backcourt, the Huskies are led by sophomore Megan Utlak. Utlak currently sits fourth in the GLIAC in digs (340) and digs per set (4.79). Leading the team from the net is junior Rachel ping with 44 total blocks and 0.64 blocks per set. Ping has been responsible for 41 block assists and three solo blocks this season.
"I think we're executing the way they need to be at the right times," says head coach Matt Jennings of his squad. "We're an aggressive team; we try to pile on some points at the net, serve some teams out of sorts from behind the line, give our defense an opportunity to extend rallies and then score in transition. Olivia and Laura have been leading the charge offensively, but without what Mariah is doing, or what Anna and our two middles are doing, it all doesn't add up and none of this success happens."
Truman State (16-4, 8-3 GLVC) enters the Crossover having won eight out of their last nine games and currently sits fourth in the GLVC. The Bulldogs rank second in the conference in total kills (970) and in kills per set (14.06) and third in hitting percentage (.233). Leading the Bulldog offense is Ellie Kaat and Jocelynn Livingston. Kaat leads the team and is third in the conference in kills (219) and kills per set (3.66), and Livingston tops the team in hitting percentage (.339) and ranks third in the GLVC. Lauren Wacker leads the GLVC in service aces per set (0.43), and Savvy Hughes ranks second in assists (733) and assists/set (10.94). Wacker also ranks fifth in the conference in digs (328) and digs per set (4.75).
The Huskies have history with Tiffin (15-5, 10-2 G-MAC), beating them twice last season in the Dragons' final season as a member of the GLIAC. Third in the G-MAC West Division, Tiffin ranks third in kills (903) and kills per set (13.28), and assists and assists per set (829, 12.19). Leading the team offensively is Jenna Huffman, ranking second in the conference in hitting percentage (.379) and seventh in kills (234) and kills per set (3.44). Tiffin also brings a strong blocking presence to the court, ranking second in the G-MAC (148.5) and Huffman ranking second in total blocks (75).
Saturday's opponent, Rockhurst (20-2, 10-1 GLVC), currently sits atop the GLVC standings and is ranked 10th in the nation. The Hawks, who made it to the NCAA Division II Final Four in 2017, enter the tournament on a run of 11 straight wins and three straight sweeps. The Hawks lead the conference in kills (1,130), kills per set (14.12), and hitting percentage (.277). Guiding the Hawks into this week's matches is Alyssa Woodman and Karli Reichert. Woodman ranks fifth in kills (279) and kills per set (3.49) and ninth in hitting percentage (.293) in the GLVC, and Reichert is eighth in kills (274) and kills per set (3.42).
"It's going to be a tough weekend" Jennings said of the tournament. "It certainly poses a challenge for us. Three matches in two days isn't always the easiest thing, but see the whole region in one venue is pretty neat. And to know that we're one of the better teams in the region is something to be proud of."
Michigan Tech will play Truman State at 11:30 a.m. and Tiffin at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, and the Huskies will face No. 11 Rockhurst at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Click here for the official website of the 2018 Midwest Regional Crossover Tournament.