The Eastern Michigan University volleyball team kicked off the rivalry weekend against Mid-American Conference foe Central Michigan University, needing all five sets to take down the Chippewas Thursday at the Convocation Center (25-23, 25-16, 21-25, 27-29, 15-13).
The game was also an “Eagles Unite” game. Student-athletes from a number of Eastern’s teams were in attendance.
The Eagles (15-10 6-5 MAC) had five players with double-digit kill totals – led by Stacey Perinar with 14.
Megan Crawshaw (13 kills, two aces) also had a good day for EMU.
“If we have five players with double-digit kills, we’re probably going to win a lot of matches,” EMU coach Kim Berrington said. “That means we can count on a lot of people and we’re getting a lot of good swings.”
Natalie Folk added three aces.
Angelique White had a team-high 15 kills for Central Michigan (9-14, 4-7 MAC).
“I thought Eastern played a lot better tonight in the beginning of the match,” CMU coach Erik Olson said. “I don’t think we showed up for the first two sets.”
He added: “I think we did a better job playing our brand of ball the middle two sets.”
The first set was very closely contested, but a key block from Devon Murray and an attack error by CMU’s Taylor Robertson gave the Eagles the 25-23 win.
Stacey Perinar, Katie Krasowski and Crawshaw each had three kills for Eastern in the first set.
Natalie Folk added a service ace and Crawshaw made three blocks.
After a controversial call giving the Chippewas a 22-21 lead in the first set, Berrington argued with the officials and was given a yellow card.
Jill Briner appeared to make a clean block, which would have given Eastern the lead – the official at the net called a bad block and gave the point to CMU.
“It was the same play that happened to win the match,” Berrington said. “It’s a real tight call when you have a back row setter and she’s jumping to play the ball and if it crosses in to the plane that’s illegal. I thought Jill was on our side [of the plane] and she said she was in the plane … I’m thinking she got it right both times [after the game] – it’s one of those real quick plays.”
She added: “But I have to argue for my team sometimes.”
The second set was all Eastern. The Eagles went into the break with a 25-16 win.
Briner and Crawshaw notched three kills in the second set.
The Eagles struggled after the break – dropping the next two sets.
The fourth set was the most intense set of the match. The Eagles trailed by as much as six points, but came back to tie the score twice late. The lead changed five times in the final set – all after both teams had 20 points, but CMU took its second straight set 29-27.
There were five different match points in the fourth set.
“We went into the locker room feeling good and all of a sudden we kind of hit a lull,” Krasowski said. “But we came back and it felt really good.”
The Eagles jumped out to a quick 7-2 lead in the final set. Central came right back, taking an 8-7 lead before switching sides.
After going back and forth late in the fifth set, a bad set for CMU gave the Eagles the 15-13 win.
Perinar – last week’s Eagle of the Week – said the win was good for the team – especially given the rivalry.
“It was awesome,” she said. “Central’s always been one of our biggest rivals. I know it’s been one of coach’s rivals for a long time and there’s been a lot of history with it … we’ve always had a lot of issues with them.”
The Eagles will hit the road for their next match. Eastern takes on Ohio University in Athens, Ohio on Saturday.
Eastern played Ohio in the MAC finals last season, ultimately falling to the Bobcats.
“Ohio’s the MAC champs – we lost to them last year in the finals and I’m sure my team remembers that,” Berrington said. “They’re always the measuring stick and I think it’s a good time to play them, but that doesn’t [make it] easy. The West division is just brutal and we have to find a way to pick up a few more wins.”
Perinar is looking forward to playing the Bobcats.
“I think that if we keep fighting and pushing and being smart, that we’re going to have a good matchup with them,” she said.
The match is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
Follow Al Willman on Twitter: @AlWillmanEcho