The bands were competing, the fans were rowdy, and the Huskies of Michigan Tech and the Bulldogs of Ferris State were ready to roll. The stage was set for the 2019 women’s volleyball GLIAC Tournament Championship game.
The first championship win that started the Ferris volleyball dynasty was an underdog win at the home of the Grand Valley Lakers. But the five years since then, Ferris has been the host of the GLIAC Conference Tournament, and they have used their home court as an advantage. After a 3-0 sweep (25-17, 25-22, 25-18), the Bulldogs raised the trophy and secured their sixth straight Conference Tournament Championship.
“Everyone is super unique in its own,” head volleyball coach Tia Brandel-Wilhelm said. “I think it is super cool for the school and that we emphasize the six in a row, but for us, it’s just about this one. We are the 2019 team; we are not any of those other teams. So, we just have been focused on this year to take care of this championship and just each game as we went.”
Even though the Huskies put up a good fight and stuck around with the GLIAC Coach of the Year’s squad, the Bulldogs and the home crowd were too much to handle. The Bulldogs held Tech to a .044 hitting percentage, and the Huskies only connected on five blocks. Michigan Tech had 71 digs, and Megan Utlak had a match-high 26 digs. The Bulldogs prepared both the offense and defense, not to the advantage of the Huskies. Ferris posted a .231 hitting percentage and four aces. The Bulldogs defense held steady with a total of 12 blocks and 73 digs. Junior outside hitter Katie O’Connell had a match-high 13 kills, freshman middle hitter Kira Merkle had a match-high six blocks.
O’Connell and senior outside hitter Courtney Brewer were selected to the All-Tournament Team along with the MVP of the Tournament, senior outside hitter Allyson Cappel.
“I thought we played well; obviously, Michigan Tech is such a good team, and to be able to win in three means our team had to play at a good level,” Brandel-Wilhelm said. “[It] was not our best match ever, we had a lot of errors, unforced errors that we normally wouldn’t have, so it was nice to see we didn’t let those errors affect our focus and we just kept coming back and earn points in other ways.”
Not only was this a special moment for the community, coaches and players, but for the seniors, who were able to compete together and win their fourth straight championship in what was possibly their last match at their home court.
“You could see them in that last point just so hard they were working to get that last point and know that it was the last time they would be out there together on this court,” Brandel-Wilhelm said of the seniors. “Super proud of them because they worked really hard to lead the team through a lot of adversity and worked really hard to make sure the team stayed together no matter what we went through. We took some early losses, struggled a lot, but the seniors just kept pulling the team together and you saw that tonight.”
The Bulldogs win a record sixth straight conference tournament and for the ninth consecutive season, will qualify for the National Tournament. They await the NCAA selection show on Monday night to see where and who they will face in the first round.