HOUGHTON, Mich. (WLUC) – The Michigan Tech volleyball team announced their 2018 team award recipients as well as their 2019 team captains on Friday. Anna Jonynas was named the Team MVP, while MacAulay Petersen received the Harold Meese Sportsmanship Award, Megan Utlak received the Digger Award, and Kristine Fink was named Most Improved Player. Utlak and Laura DeMarchi will join Petersen as captains for the 2019 season.
A sophomore outside hitter from Orland Park, Illinois, Jonynas was rewarded as Team MVP after having a breakout season on offense and defense. Appering in every set of every match in 2018, Jonynas finished the year with 262 kills (2.32/set) and a hitting percentage of .126. Jonynas was also a valuable contributor on defense, ranking second on the team with 434 digs (3.84/set), eighth-most in a single-season in program history, and racking up 22 total blocks. Jonynas was also vital for the Huskies in service, as she led the GLIAC in total aces (56) and aces per set (.50). Jonynas tallied 10 or more kills in 12 matches, and put up 20 or more digs five times in 2018.
"Anna was the only player to play every point of every set in every match this season. She was the only non setter or libero to play six rotations," said head coach Matt Jennings. "Anna served and passed more balls than anyone on the team, which was great considering she's a 2.3 level passer and led the region in aces per set. She took a ton of tough swings for us this season, her first as an outside for us. There were a handful of players that you could argue deserve to be our MVP, we had a lot of great performances this season. But without Anna stepping up the way she did once Mac went down, there is no way we have the kind of season ended up having. Anna's performance this season was impressive and a very important one for this team."
As a junior defensive-specialist from Scarsdale, New York, Fink repeats as the Most Improved Player. After making just one appearance in August, Fink played in all but one match the rest of the season as a key member of the rotation and a vital member of the Michigan Tech backcourt. Fink recorded 162 digs in 2018 (1.95/set), with a personal-best 22 digs coming in the team's 3-2 loss against Davenport in the GLIAC Tournament Semifinal. Fink also contributed in the service, posting 14 aces on the year.
"Kristine is maybe the best teammate we have. Not only does she bring a consistently positive and selfless attitude with her to the team every day, she works incredibly hard to improve and therefore contribute to the team any way possible," says Jennings. "She started off this year on the bubble for a starting defensive spot and ended the year playing at highest level we've seen in her career. For the third straight season, Kris has found a way on the court and excelled in the role we needed her to take on. Her passing and defense were both vital to our success and I'm incredibly proud of the way Kris stepped up for us this season. She's been a great example of the power of positivity and hard work and has had a great influence on our team's culture overall."
An All-GLIAC Second Team honoree last year, Petersen had her 2018 season unfortunately cut short due to injury. Despite her injury, Petersen upheld her duties as team captain by showcasing her team leadership, selfless commitment to the team, and a positive attitude that never wavered. A junior outside hitter hailing from Paw Paw, Michigan, Petersen is majoring in environmental engineering.
"It is very clear just how much Mac cares about her team. Losing your season so early to injury is a very difficult situation for any competitive athlete, and Mac is as competitive as they come," says Jennings. "Her positive approach to recovery has been inspiring for all of us. As team captain, her team first mentality served as an important part of our team chemistry this season and watching her overcome this serves as a reminder to all of us of just how dedicated she is to our program. We all look forward to see her back on the court soon and are so thankful for everything Mac has done for Husky volleyball."
In addition to the team awards, it was announced that DeMarchi and Utlak would join Petersen as captains for the 2019 season. A second-year setter from Milan, Italy, DeMarchi avoided the sophomore slump by putting up All-American-caliber numbers. Typically called the quarterback of the offense, DeMarchi dished out 1,254 assists (11.72/set), moving her into sixth for the most total assists in a career in Michigan Tech history and second in most assists per set in a Michigan Tech career. DeMarchi was also skilled in defense, posting 311 digs (2.91/set) and 31 total blocks. Those numbers, coupled with 75 kills (.70/set) and a hitting percentage of .214, earned her a slew of conference and national awards. DeMarchi was once again named GLIAC Setter of the Year and All-GLIAC First Team, and was also named AVCA All-Region and D2CCA All-Region Second Team, and became the first Husky since 2009 to be named an AVCA Honorable Mention All-American.
Utlak, a sophomore libero and defensive specialist from Parma, Ohio, received All-GLIAC Honorable Mention honors in 2018 as one of the top diggers in the GLIAC. Utlak finished the season with 511 digs, placing her fifth in the conference and third for most digs in a season in team history, while recording 4.52 digs per set, fourth-highest in a single season in MTU history.
"Megan is the leader of our back court and our overall defense. She did an excellent job in her first season as libero and proved to be one of the toughest defenders in the league," Jennings says. "Night in and night out, Meg brings maximum effort to her craft. Her performance at Anchorage and at Ashland stand out as two of the toughest I've seen from a libero in some time. Megan is an excellent defender, team leader, and will continue to thrive these next two years. Sky's the limit with this one."
Michigan Tech finished the year 23-7 overall and 14-2 in the GLIAC, one of their best records in program history. The Huskies were selected to their second consecutive NCAA Tournament, the 10th in team history, where they were given the fifth seed in the Midwest Regional Tournament. Their season ended in the first round when they were beaten 3-0 by Lewis, who advanced all the way to the NCAA Final Four.