MARQUETTE, MI – An incredible upset win over No. 1 Minnesota Duluth, preceded by a sweeping win over Bemidji State, capped off a banner day for Michigan Tech volleyball at the 2018 NMU Wildcat Open.
VS. BEMIDJI STATE
Michigan Tech's fast-paced offense was on display in a dominant 3-0 win (25-17, 25-17, 25-18) over Bemidji State. Tech enjoyed a healthy advantage in kills and attacking efficiency, as they posted 43 kills and an attack efficiency of .393 compared to the Beavers' 34 kills and .165 rating.
Senior Mariah Sherman finished the match with the highest attack percentage at .615, scoring 10 kills on 13 attempts with only two errors. Sophomore Olivia Ghormley ended the match with 16 kills, highest on either team, and with an attack rating of .455. Sophomore Laura DeMarchi recorded 21 assists in the win, and redshirt junior Mariel Leibovitz finished with 14 assists in one set of action.
Defensively, the Huskies forced Bemidji State into committing 18 errors while only committing eight themselves, and dug 36 balls to Bemidji State's 24. Freshman Grace Novotny ended the match with a game-high 11 digs, while sophomore defensive specialist Megan Utlak finished close behind with nine digs.
VS. #1 MINNESOTA DULUTH
The Huskies saved their best performance for the second game of the afternoon when they swept the No. 1 team in Division II, Minnesota Duluth, 3-0 (25-21, 25-21, 27-25). Tech had been trailing 23-17 late in the third set, but rallied with five consecutive points to make it a 23-22 match before UMD broke the run. The Huskies twice faced set point, but were able to tie the game thanks to excellent shot placement by Olivia Ghormley and Anna Jonynas, and they took the lead on a strong defensive performance causing the Bulldog offense to commit three consecutive errors to win them the game and the historic upset.
"I'm almost at a loss for words, I don't know what to say," said head coach Matt Jennings. "We beat the number one team in the country, on a neutral court, and fought back like that, there's a lot to be proud of. It was a clean game on top of that, and I knew that if we could play the game clean, play the game crisp, and play our game, then I knew we could win.
I think we did a good job neutralizing some of their better players, our serving was fantastic, Mariah came up with a big game, Laura was phenomenal. Our defense is pretty gritty, and that last set when we were making our run we needed them to step up and they did. I'm pretty excited, that one felt good."
Senior outside hitter Mariah Sherman and sophomore setter Laura DeMarchi both had standout performances against the Bulldogs. Sherman led the team with 12 kills and only two errors on 20 attacking attempts for an attack efficiency of .450, and DeMarchi led all players with 36 assists. Sherman also posted two solo blocks on the afternoon.
"We're extremely proud of how we played and it's a moment that we'll hold dear to our hearts," said Sherman, a returning First Team All-GLIAC outside hitter. "I think we also won because we did our jobs, and it worked because everyone knew what they were supposed to do. "
"Last year, we practiced so hard, and we needed to learn how to win and close out games like this," said DeMarchi, who currently leads the GLIAC in assists per set (11.45) and is third in assists (240). "This year, we've definitely learned that we're going to win whenever we do our best. Going after every point, every set, every match, until we win."
According to DeMarchi, the turning point towards the end came when they were trailing 23-17 after Minnesota Duluth scored eight out of the previous ten points. "We wanted to build momentum for the fourth set, so just wanted to score points and get our confidence back. So we just kept scoring and scoring, and I think it was when we tied the score at 24-24, we all thought 'we can do this, let's go win this'."
Michigan Tech controlled every major facet of the game. They edged the Bulldogs in kills (40-39), ended with a higher attacking efficiency (.164 and .083), and forced more errors than they committed (20-28).
Sophomore outside hitter Olivia Ghormley had another double-digit kill day, posting 12 and upping her GLIAC-best total to 102. Sophomores Megan Utlak and Anna Jonynas both recorded double-digit dig totals, with Utlak tallying 17 and Jonynas 11.
The Huskies resume play at the Wildcat Open on Saturday (Sept. 1) when they face St. Cloud State (3-1) and Minnesota Crookston (2-4). Tech's first game against St. Cloud State is at 11:00 a.m., and they take on Minnesota Crookston at 3:00 p.m.