Senior middle blockers Blake Mohler and Shavona Cuttino shone against the Michigan Wolverines in their 3-0 win on Saturday.
“Offensively, we felt we could utilize our slide hitters, our two seniors,” head coach Dave Shondell said. “We really wanted to let them be a big part of this day.”
Mohler and Cuttino finished with eight and seven kills, respectively, acting as “slide hitters” who can transition from one end of the net to the other.
“I thought those guys kinda led us as far as the offense is concerned,” Shondell said.
All three sets saw the Boilers (20-7, 12-6 Big Ten) down by at least five to Michigan (19-9, 12-6), but the team was able to come back each time. Mohler, who started the match off slow, had five of her eight kills in the second set.
“Sometimes you start off slow in the first set, you’re just getting a feel for the game, then the second set is easier to execute,” Mohler said.
Shondell, while recognizing the significance of the night and honoring two irreplaceable seniors, said he did not want his players to focus on that aspect.
“I thought they both played really well and I know that this was a big game for them,” Shondell said. “Blake had about 20 people here from Mississippi to watch her play.
“The thing that I tried to tell them was, ‘Once the match starts, forget about all that. You gotta focus on what the game plan is,’ and I think they did a good job of that.”
Mohler, whose role as a leader on this team has been evident through her position as captain, tried her best not to put any extra pressure on this game.
“If I would have done anything like that, or thought of it as Senior Night, it would have been more emotional, (and) we knew this was a big match either way," Mohler said. "I think the energy of Senior Night helped, but I kind of just ignored the fact that this is my last game in Holloway.”
While Mohler did not think at all of the surrounding event, Cuttino used the celebration as a motivation.
“In a way, there was (a different mindset) because it was Senior Night,” she said. “You don’t want to lose on Senior Night.”
After the match, Mohler and Cuttino were both recognized and celebrated for their contributions to the team over the years. Neither player had fully processed the weight of the event.
“It hasn’t really hit me,” Cuttino said, “but I was just excited. I’m so happy to be here and be with my team.”
Mohler shared a similar sentiment.
“Honestly it hasn’t hit yet. I’m sure it’ll set in tomorrow, but I had to stay mentally focused and not think about the fact that this was my last game here. I stayed pretty steady and calm before the match and throughout the match.”
This will likely be the last win in Holloway of the year, as the team will wrap up its regular season play with two road games this week.