HOUGHTON, Mich. – Aiming to end the year on a high note, Michigan Tech heads downstate to take on No. 8 Ferris State and Northwood to close out the regular season.
The Huskies, ranked 24th in the AVCA Division II poll and fourth in the latest NCAA Midwest Regional Rankings, enter this weekend's final set of matches with a 21-4 overall record and a record of 13-1 in the GLIAC following a 3-1 win over Northern Michigan in their final home match of the regular season. Michigan Tech currently sits second in the GLIAC standings, and wins in both matches will give them at least a share of their first GLIAC regular season title since 1994.
"It was an exciting, hard-fought win against a bitter rival, it was a lot of fun," says head coach Matt Jennings. "I'm happy with the way we played. I thought we came out really strong in that first set, and the in the second set they made a stand and pushed us, and we let them steal one. I thought we stole one in the third set, and it out to be pretty pivotal. And in the fourth set, I thought we played the best in that frame."
The Michigan Tech offense, ranked first in the GLIAC in kills per set and hitting percentage, and second in total kills, is led by sophomore Olivia Ghormley. The three-time GLIAC North Division Player of the Week leads the conference in kills (445) and kills per set (4.73/set), while ranking third in the nation in kills per set and 10th in the country in total kills. Joining Ghormley in the attack is senior Mariah Sherman, manning the right side and hitting .296 while recording 319 kills and 3.39 kills per set. Sherman recorded 22 kills and a .450 hitting percentage against Northern Michigan, earning her the first GLIAC North Division Player of the Week honor of her career.
Sophomore Laura DeMarchi has done an exceptional job marshaling this Husky offense, ranking first in the conference and eighth in the country in assists per set (12.05) and ranking second in the GLIAC in total assists (1060). DeMarchi has also been vital in defense, digging out 237 attacks and recording 26 total blocks. Sophomore Anna Jonynas has been a solid two-way player, recording 227 kills (2.41/set) on offense and 355 digs (3.78/set) on defense. Jonynas has also been a terrific in service, ranking at the top of the conference with 53 aces and 0.56 aces per set.
Sophomore Megan Utlak has been a key part of this Husky defense, digging out 433 attacks (4.61/set) to rank seventh in the conference in both statistics. Juniors Emilia Widen and Rachel Ping have been an effective duo at the net, combining for 96 blocks and 255 kills.
The Bulldogs (21-4, 14-0 GLIAC) are ranked eighth in the country and second in the Midwest Region as they aim for their fifth consecutive GLIAC regular season title. The Bulldogs are led on offense by Allyson Cappel and Maeve Grimes. Cappel ranks sixth in the GLIAC in kills per set (3.31) and eighth in total kills (318), while Grimes is third in the conference in total assists (1026) and assists per set (10.69). Katie Placek leads the team in digs (481, 5.01/set), and Courtney Brewer and Mekayla Carey are a pair of imposing blockers with 19 solo blocks each and a combined 133 total blocks between them.
Northwood (10-16, 4-10 GLIAC) is currently on the outside looking in with regards to the GLIAC Tournament. The Timberwolves are currently tied with Northern Michigan with in-conference record but are behind the Wildcats in overall record, leaving them out of the GLIAC Tournament if the season were to end today. The top player on offense for Northwood will be Mackenzie Kepler with 245 kills (2.69/set) and Macy Lintz with 879 assists (9.35/set). Defensively, the Timberwolves will be led by Macy Lintz with 879 assists (9.35/set) and Mary Gallagher with 64 total blocks.
"The focus is this Friday," Jennings said about the upcoming matchups. "We've all known about this game as the season has come along and, certainly going into the year, we knew that there was a possibility that we could be in a position to be playing for something like this for the second year in a row."
"With Northwood, it's more of the same from last time," Jennings continued. "I thought the last time we played Northwood was some of the cleanest ball we've played all year."
The last time these teams met was in mid-September in the first home matches of the season for Michigan Tech. The Huskies swept Northwood 3-0 on September 14, and were then beaten 3-1 by Ferris State the next day. The opening serve for Friday's match is scheduled for 7 p.m., and Saturday's match will begin at 5 p.m.