HOUGHTON, Mich. – The second-seed Michigan Tech volleyball team held off a tough seventh-seed Grand Valley State in a satisfying 3-0 win (25-15, 25-23, 25-23) inside the SDC Gym in the Quarterfinal of the 2018 GLIAC Tournament. With the win, the Huskies improve to 23-5 on the year as they advance to the next round.
The Huskies will now play Davenport (16-13) in the Semifinal of the GLIAC Tournament at Ferris State University on Friday (Nov. 9) at 5:30 p.m. The sixth-seed Panthers, who defeated third-seed Ashland in five sets Wednesday night, were beaten 3-1 by the Huskies the last time these teams squared off on September 15 inside the SDC Gym.
"If you look at the scores and, other than maybe the first set of tonight's match, they were pretty close sets," said head coach Matt Jennings. "We knew going in that Grand Valley had some players that could score. We tried to contain their scorers as best we could and relied on our offense."
The win in the second set proved to be the difference maker for Michigan Tech. The Huskies opened the frame ahead 5-3 before the Lakers (13-15) tied the score. The Huskies continued to hold a narrow lead throughout the action before GVSU scored three straight to tie the score at 10-10 and eventually took the lead. The Lakers had a lead as big as three points before the Huskies rallied for four consecutive points to retake the lead. GV answered right back with a three-point run of their own to lead 20-18, but the Black and Gold roared back with four straight points thanks to excellent blocking by senior Mariah Sherman, freshman Janie Grindland, and sophomore Olivia Ghormley to lead 22-20 going into a Laker timeout. The Huskies withstood three of the next four points going to the Lakers before Sherman finished off the set with a tipped kill.
The third set proved to be just as thrilling as the Lakers led early. Trailing 7-6, the Huskies scored three straight to lead 9-7 before Grand Valley State eventually tied the score back up at 10-10. MTU scored three straight points, but the run was quickly wiped out by four straight Laker points. The teams traded four-point streaks until the score was knotted at 20-20. A kill by sophomore Anna Jonynas sparked a crucial run of four unanswered points that gave the Huskies a strong 24-20 lead in the dying stages of the match. Tech weathered a three-point run by the Lakers to win the set and the match thanks to a well-placed kill by Ghormley.
Michigan Tech made short work of Grand Valley State to open the contest, racing out to a 10-3 lead before the visitors called timeout. The Black and Gold continued the onslaught with a four-point run to lead 15-6 and saw their lead eventually grow to 20-10 with precise attacking and excellent defense. Michigan Tech refused to let the Lakers stage a mini comeback and recorded three of the last four points of the frame to open the match with a convincing performance.
"I think it was a huge confidence booster," said Ghormley, who led all players in the match with 17 kills. "We were getting clean balls, we were passing, setting, putting the ball away when we needed to and it helped carry us throughout the match."
In the first postseason match of her career, Grindland played strong as she finished with five kills, a hitting percentage of .556, and six block assists.
"The team having my back the whole time gave me the motivation to go out there and do my best," said Grindland.
Sherman posted nine kills and recorded three block assists and a solo block against the Lakers. Sophomore Laura DeMarchi had another stellar night from the setter position, recording her 16th double-double of the season with 39 assists and 12 digs while also adding three kills. Jonynas also had a good outing, leading the team with 19 digs while putting up eight kills, and junior Rachel Ping added in six kills, two service aces, a solo block, and a block assist.
The Black and Gold put in a solid performance on both sides of the court tonight. They out-hit the Lakers (.276 - .190) and recorded 48 kills to their 38 while tallying more assists (46-34), digs (64-44), and team blocks (9-5).
"I thought the defense was the story of the game here tonight," said Jennings. "I thought tonight's defense was the difference maker. We out-blocked them, out-dug them, and that extended enough rallies for us."