HOUGHTON, Mich. – Michigan Tech volleyball coach Matt Jennings earned his 100th career win Friday as the Huskies defeated Davenport 3-1 (26-24, 22-25, 25-23, 25-16) at the SDC Gym. Tech improved to 11-3 overall and 5-1 in the GLIAC.
It was back-and-forth for most of the match, with neither team able to pull away from the other for any sustained run. The only time one team held a lead greater than four points was in the fourth set when the Huskies took control late and ended up winning 25-15.
"It feels great to get the win," said Jennings following the win. "This Davenport team is a good team. They weren't going to be easy to beat, and they proved that here tonight."
Jennings joins Mary Kaminski and Krista Mikesch as the third Husky head coach with 100 career wins. Last season's GLIAC Coach of the Year, Jennings is in his seventh season with the Huskies and guided them to their first NCAA Tournament appearance last year for the first time since 2009.
The deciding set of the match was the third frame. Michigan Tech trailed for most of the action, behind 11-7 at the midpoint, when a kill by junior Emilia Widen kickstarted a six-point Husky run that pushed them ahead 13-11. Although the Panthers kept themselves in the match, they never retook the lead and the Huskies were able to pull away towards the end with crisp defending and accurate attacks before winning 25-22 on a kill by senior Mariah Sherman.
The first set was a nail-biter from start to finish. The Huskies found themselves trailing 11-10 to the visitors when they ran off four straight points following a service error by Davenport. The lead wouldn't last, though, as Davenport kept chipping away and eventually took a 24-20 lead. Facing set point, the Huskies rallied and scored six straight points to take the frame, 26-24. Sophomore Olivia Ghormley recorded the final kill, one of 10 in the set.
Ghormley was the difference maker for the Huskies in the match, hitting .302 on 63 attacks with a game-high 25 kills and just six errors. She also contributed with three block assists and six digs. She did most of her scoring in the first and third sets, tallying 10 and eight kills, respectively, to help the Huskies grind out tight wins.
"Having the defense to back me up, having Laura putting the ball where it needs to be, and having the backcourt tell me where the openings on the court were big," said Ghormley, who leads the GLIAC in kills and kills per set. "It was frustrating to play a team that's incredibly scrappy, keeping everything off the floor, so having the backcourt telling me where the openings were was very beneficial."
Sophomore Laura DeMarchi served up 53 assists tonight, hitting the 50-assist mark for the third time this season, and also recorded 17 digs for a double-double. DeMarchi, who also made four kills, was joined by sophomore Anna Jonynas with 12 kills and 20 digs as the only two players on either team to record a double-double.
In the backcourt, sophomore Megan Utlak led with 26 of the team's 87 digs, the fourth-most this season for the Black and Gold. The Huskies totaled nine blocks against the Panthers, with solo blocks coming from Widen and Sherman, and four block assists by junior Rachel Ping.
MTU controlled the fourth set, hitting .410 as a team while committing two errors, their lowest of the night, and limiting Davenport to a hitting percentage of .188. The Huskies went on lengthy runs throughout the frame, scoring five straight points to make it 12-5, five out of seven points to lead 20-13, and five of six points to close out the set and the match in favor of the Huskies.
Davenport (8-7, 3-3 GLIAC) jumped out to a 6-3 lead to start the second set before Michigan Tech pulled ahead with five unanswered points. While they eventually led 17-14, the Panthers rattled off five straight points to pull ahead and never surrendered the lead as the stingy Panthers scored the final three points to take the set, 25-22, and even the match at 1-1.
Michigan Tech led Davenport in every major statistical category. The Huskies achieved a hitting percentage of .275 on the night and recorded 66 kills, 64 assists, and 87 digs. Meanwhile, they limited the Panthers to a hitting percentage of .205, 51 kills, 46 assists, and 76 digs. The Huskies also committed fewer errors than their opponents, posting 17 errors to Davenport's 18.
The Huskies face a quick turn-around when they host Grand Valley State (10-4, 3-3 GLIAC) on Saturday (Sept. 22) at 2 p.m. The Lakers, picked to finish second in the GLIAC South Division, got the better of the Huskies last season when they won 3-2 in Allendale, Michigan.