ANCHORAGE, AK – Michigan Tech volleyball began their season with a pair of wins at the UAA Invitational on Friday (Aug. 24). The Huskies pulled off a come-from-behind win over Alaska in the morning match before earning a victory over Western New Mexico in the afternoon.
In the first match, the Huskies dropped the first and third sets 25-15 and 25-21, respectively, before storming back in the fourth set and asserting dominance in the final set to come away with a come-from-behind 3-2 win over the Nanooks. The Huskies scored three of the final four points of the set.
"It's always a nice start to the season with a win," said head coach Matt Jennings. "While we had a pretty shaky start, I'm proud of the way we fought back. I think we got an early glimpse of how tough we are and also what we need to do better. We made some big plays in the fourth set that finally got us going and playing the way we expect ourselves to."
Sophomore Olivia Ghormley led all players in the match with 17 kills, with nearly half of her kills came in the final two sets. Ghormley also added a .317 attack percentage and three block assists on the day. Senior Mariah Sherman added 15 kills and two solo blocks, while Megan Utlak led the team with 22 digs.
"Olivia was exceptional at the net, led our attack, and came up with some timely blocks" added Jennings. "Mariah came through big time as the match progressed. Her physicality is a spark for us."
"I think we came together really well to finish out each set," said Ghormley, who finished in the top 20 of the GLIAC in kills per set in 2017. "I just play it point by point, and I give a lot of credit to the passers for setting us up and the girls in the back for keeping the ball in play. It was a real team effort."
Fellow sophomore Laura DeMarchi was one of two Huskies to record a double-double. The sophomore setter tallied 55 assists and 14 digs, while sophomore Anna Jonynas recorded 12 kills and 18 digs. All of Jonynas' kills came in the final two sets for the Huskies.
As a team, the Huskies tallied 62 kills to Alaska's 59, had an attack percentage of .193 to .176, and came away with 90 digs to Alaska's 86. In all, it was a very close affair in both the scoreboard and in the stat book.
VS. WESTERN NEW MEXICO
In their second match of the day, Michigan Tech battled their way to a 3-1 (24-26, 25-19, 25-17, 25-17) victory over Western New Mexico.
The Huskies, despite squandering a two-point lead to drop the first set, rebounded nicely to control the tempo for the rest of the match. The Husky defense forced Western New Mexico into committing 30 attacking errors and limited them to a .149 attack percentage.
"We came out a little flat in the first set," said head coach Matt Jennings. "I wasn't too happy about that. But the way the team responded I was very happy with. They came together, controlled the ball better, getting the offense going, and we saw the result."
On the day, Anna Jonynas stood out with 13 kills, 16 digs, one block assist, and a service ace. Of her 13 kills, five came in the second set to help give momentum back to the Huskies. Mariah Sherman and Olivia Ghormley were also pivotal on offense, tallying 16 and 14 respective kills, while Laura DeMarchi posted 49 assists against the Mustangs. Sherman was the Huskies' top attacker with an attack percentage of .389, and was also put in a strong defensive effort at the net with three blocking assists
"Today's win was really a team win," said Jonynas. "We really came together and needed to pick up our energy after losing the first set. We brought it back and really focused, and we just came together and did what we set out to do from the beginning."
The backcourt was especially effective against the Mustangs, with Jonynas, Megan Utlak (16), Grace Novotny (14), and Maggie Petersen (14) all recording double-digit dig figures. Blocking also proved to be a key for Michigan Tech, with Emilia Widen and Rachel Ping recording five and four assisted blocks, respectively, making up half of the team's block total.
The Huskies return to action at the UAA Invitational with an 11 am (AKST) match against Barton College before facing host Alaska Anchorage at 7:30 pm (AKST).