HOUGHTON, Mich. – The Michigan Tech volleyball team opened the 2019 season with a 3-0 sweep of No. 9-ranked Southwest Minnesota State on Thursday (Sept. 5) in the Country Inn & Suites Keweenaw Classic. The Huskies fought through two close sets, winning 25-23 and 26-24, before closing out the match 25-17 in the third.
"I can't think of a better way to start our season after the way it ended last year," Tech coach Matt Jennings said. "Yes, we have things to work on but we were tough at big points in the match and made big plays. For us to beat a team like that in three on our home court to begin the season is a great thing."
The Huskies used the crowd and pep band's energy early and hopped out to a quick 7-1 lead in the first, riding quality serving from Rachel Ping who finished with a match-high five service aces. Tech led 20-13 later in the set before SMSU battled back to tie it up at 23. Back-to-back kills by Anna Jonynas gave the home team a 1-0 lead at 25-23.
Neither team held a lead larger than three points in the second set. The Mustangs led 23-21 late in the frame before committing a pair of critical errors for a 23-all tie. SMSU's Jenna Walczak had a kill for set point. Ping responded for the Huskies with a kill followed by a Laura De Marchi dump kill and it was set point in favor of Tech. An attack error for SMSU gave the Huskies the 26-24 win and a 2-0 lead going into the break.
Tech built leads of 12-7 and 20-12 in the third and fed off a number of SMSU errors. De Marchi closed out the match with another dump kill and a 25-17 win.
"We had to close the door," added Jennings. "There was a sense of calm on our side in that third set. We just said, 'Hey keep it simple and don't let up here.'"
Jonynas was the lone Husky with double-digit kills, putting down 11 while adding eight digs.
"She does six rotations well for us," Jennings said. "She kept us in it and came up with some clutch points. Her passing is probably her greatest asset and that makes everything happen for us."
Olivia Ghormley added eight kills and three block assists, while Ping had five kills on only nine attempts. DeMarchi set up the offense with 28 assists while adding seven digs defensively. Grace Novotny (10 digs) and Megan Utlak (nine digs) led the defensive charge, while Emilia Widen had four block assists.
The Huskies continue the Keweenaw Classic on Friday against the University of Mary at 1 p.m. and Minnesota Crookston at 7 p.m. both in the SDC Gym.
"We'll have to gather ourselves and get after it tomorrow," said Jennings. "We have a morning match against a team who returns everyone, and we have to be ready—especially after an emotional win like tonight."
Morning action gets underway at 9 a.m. when Mary and Parkside meet. CLICK HERE for the full schedule of matches.