HOUGHTON, Mich. – The Michigan Tech volleyball team will open their postseason against a familiar foe, as the second-seed Huskies host seventh-seed Grand Valley State on Wednesday (Nov. 7) in the quarterfinal of the 2018 GLIAC Tournament.
Michigan Tech, 22-5 overall and 14-2 in the GLIAC, enter the conference tournament on the heels of a 3-0 defeat to Ferris State and a 3-2 comeback win over Northwood. This marks the fourth straight year the Huskies have qualified for the GLIAC Tournament, and the second straight year they have hosted a quarterfinal match.
"We dug in it and took care of business in those last three sets against Northwood," said head coach Matt Jennings. "It was an important win for us, and we realized that especially in hindsight."
"We wanted to finish the season strong, and I'm glad that we did," Jennings continued. "There were some highlights from the Ferris match that we can be proud of, but credit to Ferris for winning, and we're hopeful that we get to see them again."
Michigan Tech boasts one of the most high-scoring offenses in the conference, ranking first in kills per set (14.24) and hitting percentage (.241), and second in total kills (1,452). Leading the Husky offense is sophomore Olivia Ghormley. Ghormley ranks third and tenth in the country in kills per set (4.70) and total kills (479) while also contributing at the net with 36 total blocks.
Lining up alongside Ghormley is a quartet of Huskies with 100+ kills to their name. Senior Mariah Sherman has manned the right side all season, tallying 342 kills (3.35/set), while sophomore Anna Jonynas has scored 241 kills (2.36/set) and leads the conference in service aces (55) and service aces per set (0.54). At the net, juniors Emilia Widen and Rachel Ping have recorded 153 kills (1.80) and 112 kills (1.13), respectively. Widen has also been an efficient attacker, hitting at .353
Running this fast-paced offense all season has been sophomore Laura DeMarchi. Named GLIAC Setter and Freshman of the Year last season, DeMarchi ranks third in the country in assists per set (11.88) and stands second in the GLIAC in total assists (1,059). DeMarchi has also added 268 digs (2.79/set) and 65 kills (0.68/set) to the Huskies this season.
Sophomore Megan Utlak has been a constant presence in the backcourt, ranking fifth in the conference in total digs (465) and sixth in the conference in digs per set (4.56). Widen, Ping, and Sherman have also been effective on defense, recording 38, 66, and 53 total blocks respectively.
"I think we're a pretty balanced team," Jennings said. "We've had some players step up in really big moments all throughout the year."
The Lakers (13-14, 6-10 GLIAC) enter the tournament following a 3-2 loss at Parkside and a 3-1 win against Purdue Northwest. GVSU is led by middle blocker Staci Brower, who ranks second in the conference in hitting percentage (.343) while posting a team-leading 319 kills (3.29/set). Brower is also a force at the net, totaling 77 blocks (0.79/set) on the year. Outside hitter Hannah Murdock and right side hitter Alexandra Thompson have also been offensive leaders for Grand Valley State, recording 236 kills (2.48/set) and 207 kills (2.13/set), respectively. At defense, outside hitter Kendall Yerkes is the best of the bunch with 442 digs (4.56/set), followed up by Thompson with 324 digs (3.34/set).
"We like the match up," Jennings said of his quarterfinal opponent. "We think we can be the better team if we play well. But this is an experienced team in the playoffs; this is a program that knows how to navigate the postseason. And while they may have had somewhat of a down regular season, I'm not taking anything for granted."
The match is scheduled for 7 p.m. inside the SDC Gym. The teams previously met on September 22 in a non-division GLIAC match, and the Huskies came away with a 3-0 sweep of the Lakers.