Tech volleyball dispatches Lake Erie

HOUGHTON – There was no volleyball giveaway day scheduled Saturday at the SDC Gym. It just seemed that way at the rate Michigan Tech forced its opponents to mishit balls into the stands.

Tech overwhelmed Lake Erie 3-0 (25-19, 25-22, 25-10), flipping the script on a rough Friday outing against Ashland.

“We went back to the fundamentals. That was our theme for today, sticking with fundamentals, nothing fancy, nothing too cute, nothing overaggressive, nothing careless,” Tech coach Matt Jennings said.

The split weekend was a study in extremes: Ashland led the South Division in the GLIAC preseason poll. Lake Erie was last on the ballots of all seven South coaches voting and played to type. However, for a team trying to build momentum like the Huskies, to meet an inferior opponent and put them away swiftly is a sign of progress.

“A win in this league is one that is going to need to be earned. I’ve seen enough of Lake Erie that they’re capable of taking down some good teams,” Jennings said.

Tech didn’t get off to a good start, trailing 7-3 in the first set, but the Huskies were tied by 8-8 and in control by 17-12.

The Storm closed to within 20-18, but Kienna Sharp stopped the run with a kill, and the Huskies came within a point of the set on a three-point run from Shelby Jones’ serve. Tech put it away at the second chance on a kill from Aubrey Ficek.

The Huskies had four kills and a Sharp ace to take control of the second set at 18-13. The Storm pulled within two late, but setter Madeline Haben stung the Storm with a dump set to clinch the 2-0 lead.

Haben dished out 24 of the Huskies’ 27 assists and contributed four kills of her own. The senior’s performance impressed Jennings.

“I thought Maddie did a great job bouncing back from (Friday). She, I don’t think, was herself last night. It’s out of character for such a great setter and a hard worker. To see her go out there and do those things, I think I saw her jump higher than I’ve ever seen her jump one of those dump sets.”

Haben had lots of help Saturday, particularly from efficient sophomore Sylvie Rokosh, who led Tech with nine kills on 13 attempts with just one error for an impressive .675 hitting percentage. Ficek added eight kills.

The Huskies came out of the second-set break even stronger than before, requiring only four rotations to build up an 11-3 lead. This time, Lake Erie didn’t attempt a rally, as Tech restricted the suspense to whether or not would the Storm would reach double digits.

Tech never allowed Lake Erie to establish itself throughout the match, serving 14 aces.

“Our serving game is capable of taking any team, from top to bottom, out of system. That is a theory I believe in and a process I want our team to continue to work at,” Jennings said.

Since the Storm weren’t consistently controlling the first ball, it was progressively harder to control the second and third. They posted only one more kill than hitting error for an anemic .013 hitting percentage and hit well below zero in the third set.

Haben, Ficek and Rachel Pohlod co-led Tech with six digs apiece.

The Huskies are guaranteed to finish their season-opening homestand with a winning record, but Tuesday, they go for an even bigger prize, beating Northern Michigan. The Wildcats have won the last six meetings between the U.P. rivals.

“A match that is going to be fun. If we don’t enjoy it, we’re missing the point,” Jennings said.