Andy Sneddon, CMUChippewas.com
MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – Everything is history. Now, it’s about what is immediately in front that counts for the Central Michigan volleyball team.
The Chippewas will square off with Western Michigan on Thursday (7 p.m. ESPN3) in a Mid-American Conference Tournament opener at Millett Hall on the campus of Miami (Ohio) University in Oxford, Ohio.
It is CMU’s first league-tournament berth under second-year coach Mike Gawlik and the program’s first since 2012.
The Chippewas made a late-season surge, winning five of their final seven matches, to reach the tournament as the No. 7 seed. Western is seeded sixth. The Chippewas swept the Broncos in three sets 11 days ago in McGuirk Arena. That was CMU’s fifth-consecutive victory.
The Chippewas dropped their final two matches of the regular season last weekend, falling at home to Eastern Michigan and at Ohio.
“We’re in, we’ve got a shot, we’ve got a good opponent on Thursday,” Gawlik said. “We’re 5-2 in our last seven matches and we’ve got to play with that mentality that we’re a tough team to play in the tournament.”
Senior Jordan Bueter, who on Wednesday was named First Team All-MAC for the second-consecutive year, leads the Chipppewas and ranks second in the MAC with 416 kills.
Thursday’s winner will play third-seeded Ball State on Friday in a quarterfinal match. The Chippewas split their two matches with both Western and Ball State. In both cases, CMU won the second meeting.
“We’ve shown signs this year of really playing well, even when we’re down,” Gawlik said. “We’ve had a few matches that we’ve really controlled from start to finish. We’ve come back from 0-2, 1-2 or down 0-1. Those kinds of things are important in tournament play.
“Good teams push, win sets, have runs. I think our seniors are going to play a big role in our ability to find success in the tournament.”