HOUGHTON, Mich. – Michigan Tech aims to rebound from its first GLIAC loss of the season with a pair of home matches against Davenport and Grand Valley State this weekend at the SDC Gym.
The Huskies (10-3, 4-1 GLIAC) enter their upcoming matches on the heels of a 1-1 weekend, winning 3-0 (25-9, 25-17, 25-10) over Northwood before suffering a 3-1 defeat (16-25, 18-25, 25-16, 24-26) to No. 11 Ferris State. The Black and Gold received votes in the latest AVCA Coaches poll for the third(?) week in a row.
"The win Friday night against Northwood was about as good as we've had all season," said head coach Matt Jennings. "The Ferris State game was a disappointing loss, but we came away from that feeling like we played good ball for most of it. We were proud of how we played in the third and fourth sets after how we started off."
Michigan Tech will bring its prolific offense back onto the court against its opponents from the GLIAC South Division. The Huskies rank 13th in the country in kills per set (14.10), 17th in assists per set (13.19), and 27th in hitting percentage (.239), leading the GLIAC in all three categories. The Huskies are also third in the conference in total kills (677), service aces (73), and service aces per set (1.52).
Sophomores Olivia Ghormley and Laura DeMarchi are the highlights of the Michigan Tech offense. Ghormley leads the conference and ranks eighth in the country in kills per set (4.50) and total kills (216), while DeMarchi ranks first in the GLIAC and 10th in Division II in assists per set (11.60). Junior Emilia Widen is also an important piece to the Tech attack, ranking third in the conference in hitting percentage (.337).
MTU is also a formidable team on defense. The Huskies rank second (WHERE) in digs per set (17.96) and third in digs total (862), and ninth in solo blocks (17). Sophomore Megan Utlak leads the squad with 222 digs and 4.63 digs per set, ranking sixth in the conference in both statistics.
Michigan Tech will host Davenport (8-6, 3-2 GLIAC) on Friday (Sept. 21). The Panthers, picked to finish fourth in the GLIAC South Division in the GLIAC Preseason Poll, are led on offense by senior Ashley VanderHorst with 144 kills and a hitting percentage of .330, ranking fourth in the conference. Guiding Davenport from the backcourt is senior Kasey Stehouwer, ranking fifth in total digs (228) and digs per set (4.65), while VanderHorst ranks second in total blocks (56) and blocks per set (1.14).
"Davenport is a dangerous team," Jennings said of the Panthers. "They can beat any team in the conference. They have two really good middle blockers, and we'll have to slow down an explosive outside attack."
Grand Valley State (9-4, 2-3 GLIAC) will be Tech's opponent on Saturday (Sept. 22). The Lakers, predicted to place second in the South Division, are led by senior Staci Brower on offense. A three-time All-GLIAC First Team selection and former GLIAC Freshman of the Year honoree, Brower is second in the conference in hitting percentage (.341) and in solo blocks (13). The Lakers are exceptional when serving, ranking first in the conference in total service aces (97) and service aces per set (1.06), and are the top team in the GLIAC in solo blocks (32).
"With Grand Valley State, it's always going to be a tough game," Jennings said of Saturday's opponent. "They're a storied program within our conference, they've been national champions before, so we know we'll have our hands full there."
However, Jennings is confident in his team and in his game plan going into this weekend's set of games. "I like the matchup for both matches. If we're playing fast and clean, then we should be the better team."
Opening serve on Friday is scheduled for 5 p.m., and Saturday's match will begin at 2 p.m.