HOUGHTON, Mich. – After a three-week absence from home, the Michigan Tech volleyball will host two of their final three home matches of the regular season this weekend, with the Huskies hosting Lake Superior State on Friday and Saginaw Valley State on Saturday.
18-4 overall and 10-1 in the GLIAC, the Huskies enter this weekend's slate of matches following a 2-1 mark at the 2018 Midwest Region Crossover tournament in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Huskies are ranked 24th in the country in the most recent AVCA Division II poll following regional wins over Truman State and Tiffin and a four-set loss against Rockhurst, then-ranked No. 10 in the country.
"I think to come out of that tournament 2-1 is a good thing," said seventh-year head coach Matt Jennings. "We beat two really good teams that are strong in the region, and that we had to fight hard to win against. And with the Rockhurst loss, that team could've been one of the best we've faced all season."
The Michigan Tech offense, ranked first in the GLIAC and sixth nationally in kills per set (14.60) and assists per set (13.78), have a wide array of talented players to choose from to best attack an opposing team. Sophomore Olivia Ghormley, a three-time GLIAC North Division Player of the Week, is proving to be the most dangerous attacker of the bunch. From the outside hitter position, Ghormley has scored 400 kills this season, over a third of the team's total, while averaging 4.82 kills per set to rank first in the GLIAC in both categories, and ranking her second in kills per set and third in kills in the country. Combining for 56 kills (4.67 kills per set) and an attack rating of .253 across three matches, Ghormley was named to the Crossover GLIAC All-Tournament Team.
Quarterbacking the offense is sophomore setter Laura DeMarchi. Named the Sports Imports/AVCA Division II Player of the Week on October 2, DeMarchi has dished out 942 assists and has averaged 12.08 assists per set, ranking her second and first in the GLIAC, while she ranks sixth in Division II in assists per set. DeMarchi has also been an effective defender, digging out 213 opposing attacks. DeMarchi recorded a combined 149 assists (12.42 assists per set) and 45 digs (3.75 digs per set) to join Ghormley on the All-Tournament Team at the Crossover.
Senior Mariah Sherman is another option in this potent attack. Sherman, who crossed the 1,000-kill mark this season, currently stands at 277 kills on the year and is averaging 3.34 kills per set. Sophomore Anna Jonynas is an effective player from all over the court for the Black and Gold, recording 314 digs and 207 kills this season while leading the conference with 45 service aces.
Megan Utlak is the leader from the backcourt for Michigan Tech this season. The sophomore defensive specialist has dug out 388 attacks this season and averaged 4.67 digs per set, placing her fourth in the GLIAC in both categories. Juniors Emilia Widen and Rachel Ping have been an effective middle pairing for the Huskies this season, combining for 81 total blocks, with Widen recording six solo blocks and 27 block assists, and Ping having been credited with three solo blocks and 45 block assists.
"We've adopted the idea that an offense can be the best form of defense," Jennings said of his team. "Our offense scores a lot of points, we try to serve a lot of teams tough to get them out of their serve-receive, and we have a backcourt defense that has a 'ball no hit ground' mentality to keep the ball alive and give our offense more opportunities to then score in transition."
Lake Superior State (5-17, 2-9 GLIAC), who went 2-1 at the Crossover, was defeated 3-0 by the Huskies the last time these teams met back in September. The Lakers are averaging 9.95 kills per set and are hitting .103 as a team. Leading the way for Lake Superior State offensively will be Amanda Reid, who is averaging 3.01 kills per set while totaling 262 kills. Paige Gotham would be the player the Huskies want to avoid attacking, as she ranks seventh in the GLIAC with 374 digs.
Coming off a 1-2 outing at the Crossover, Saginaw Valley State (15-7, 8-3 GLIAC) were also swept the last time these teams faced off in September. With an offense that ranks fifth in the conference in kills (1,063) and seventh in hitting percentage (.174), leading the way for the Cardinals is Sarah Tabit. Tabit, who scored 10 kills against the Huskies on September 7, ranks seventh in the GLIAC in kills per set (3.21) and eighth in total kills (263). Positioned third in the conference in digs per set (4.76) and sixth in total digs (376), Abbie Toland will look to dig out any Husky attack that comes her way.
"We opened our GLIAC play against these two teams on the road, came out with two 3-0 wins," Jennings said of this week's competition. "Lake State has continued to improve, so we know they'll be gunning for us. And Saginaw Valley is an inter-division rivalry; they'll be gunning for a higher position in the postseason. We know we'll have our hands full, and I think the team is excited to get back into conference play."
Friday's match will begin at 7 p.m. after a presentation honoring Mariah Sherman for recording her 1,000th kill and Matt Jennings for his 100th win as head coach at Michigan Tech. The opening serve for Saturday's match is slated for 3 p.m.