The eight-team field is set for the 16th Mid-American Conference Volleyball Championship, though the site of the semifinals and championship matches has yet to be decided.
The four winners from Tuesday's quarterfinals will advance to the highest remaining seed for the semifinals and championship match, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 26-27.
The winner of the MAC Tournament will automatically qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Pairings will be announced on Sunday, Nov. 28 at 10 p.m. (EST).
DIVISION CHAMPIONS CROWNED:
Akron claimed its first-ever divisional title in volleyball, the East Division, with a three-game win against Central Michigan. Entering the tournament, the Zips have matched their win total of 1998, which is the team's most since 24 victories in 1995. Akron has also equaled its league win production of a year ago (13), the most conference wins by a Zip squad.
In the West, Ball State won its sixth regular season title in the 1990s, following the Cardinals' win at Akron and coupled with Western Michigan's loss at Northern Illinois. Since the MAC began divisional play in 1997, Ball State has either tied or won the West Division outright each year. In addition, BSU's 16 league wins this year are the most by a league school in one season since the Cardinals won 17 in 1994.
THE 20-WIN PLATEAU AND THE MAC:
For the fifth consecutive season, the MAC had at least four schools register 20 or more wins in a season. Ball State's 25 wins leads all league schools, with Western Michigan (23), Bowling Green (20) and Marshall (20) each totaling at least 20 wins.
The 25 wins for BSU are tied for the second-most under coach Randy Litchfield, and the most for the Muncie, Ind., school since 1994. WMU's 23 victories are the most for the Broncos since 1987 when it won 28, while Bowling Green and EMU have reached the plateaus for the first time since 1993 and 1990, respectively.
LAST YEAR'S RUNNER-UP NOT IN:
Northern Illinois did not qualify for a league's postseason tournament for the first time since 1986, when it was not affiliated with a conference. In each of the last three years, the Huskies had participated in the NCAA Tournament and had made postseason trips to either the NCAA or NIVC in seven of the past eight seasons. Since rejoining the MAC in 1997, the Huskies have been the tournament champion (1997) and the tournament runner-up (1998).
HOME COURT IN THE QUARTERS:
Ball State, Western Michigan, Akron and Bowling Green will host the four quarterfinals on Tuesday. BSU, which earned the top seed for the tournament, has the MAC's best home winning record at 14-1, while No. 2 seed Western Michigan is right behind the Cardinals at 14-2. Third-seeded Akron, which finished the regular season with four wins in its last five matches -- all of them at home -- has a 6-5 record at home, while Bowling Green is 7-3 on its home floor.
MIAMI AND THE MAC TOURNAMENT:
Miami has qualified for the MAC Tournament for the 13th time out of the 16 conference postseason tournaments (1980-82; 1987-99) the most of any MAC school. (Western Michigan follows with 12 appearances, then Ball State (11), Bowling Green (10) and Central Michigan (9).
Of the 12 prior appearances, the Red and White has advanced to the championship match nine times and won the tournament five times. Both numbers are also tops in the conference.
BG AND ITS QUARTERFINAL OPPONENT:
Bowling Green's opening round opponent -- Miami -- in the MAC Tournament has had its share of troubles in recent history. The RedHawks have won 12 consecutive matches over the Falcons, including six straight in Anderson Arena, where the two meet on Tuesday. The last time BG defeated Miami was in 1993, which was also the last time the Falcons had a 20-win season. Entering the tournament, BG has accumulated 20 victories, marking the eighth time in school history that a Falcon team has registered 20 or more wins.
HOME MATCH EQUALS WINS?:
Following the conclusion of the regular season, seven of the league's teams compiled a .500 or better record at home. Ball State completed the regular season with a 14-1 mark at home. Right behind BSU is Western Michigan, which finished with a 14-2 mark on its home floor, while Miami (10-4), Bowling Green (7-3), Eastern Michigan (10-5), Northern Illinois (7-6) and Akron (6-5) also produced winning marks on its respective home court.
PRESEASON POLL REVISITED:
Below is a comparison of the league's preseason poll, which was released back in August, in relation to where the teams stand with at the end of the regular season.
EIGHT STRAIGHT 20-WIN SEASONS:
Ball State has posted an eighth straight 20-win season for the first time in school history. The streak includes 1992 (22), 1993 (26), 1994 (25), 1995 (22), 1996 (21), 1997 (21), 1998 (21) and this season. Stringing together eight 20-win seasons had happened only one other time in the history of the Mid-American Conference. Western Michigan posted nine in a row beginning in 1979 and ending in 1987.
THOMPSON OUT FOR SEASON:
Miami's Alissia Thompson, the defending Mid-American Conference Player of the Year, sustained a career-ending injury to her left hand. Thompson was taking part in a weight-lifting session when she lost her balance and the weight she was lifting fell onto her left hand, fracturing her left thumb.
Thompson finishes her Miami career with 960 kills and ranks 10th on Miami's all-time block solo chart with 46. This season, Thompson amassed 22 solo blocks, which ranks ninth on Miami's single-season chart. She also owns the sixth-best single-season block assist total of 104, which she established last season, and the fourth-highest single-season kill per game average of 3.89, which she recorded this season.
HUTTON CONTINUES TO LEAD EMU:
Eastern Michigan's Jill Hutton is having a senior year to remember. In 114 games, she has 460 kills (4.04 kpg), the fourth-best single season in EMU history, and is hitting .318, both of which rank in the top seven in the league. She also has 128 total blocks, the fifth-best single season in EMU history, and is the career leader in block assists and total blocks. She also became the EMU career games played leader with 420, a record that she took in the opening game against Northern Illinois.
SALLEE CONTINUES TO RAISE THE BAR:
Ball State junior Emily Sallee, who already boasts BSU's career record for assists (4,568) and the MAC
record for assists-per-game average in a season (13.67 in 1998), established another school standard last weekend as she totaled 138 assists to improve her single-season effort to 1,636. That shatters her previous school-record total of 1,545 set in 1998 and represents the second-highest single-season total in MAC annals.
Sallee, who was named the MAC Freshman of the Year in 1997 after averaging the highest assists-per-game average in league history (12.84) by a freshman, is averaging 53 assists per match this season. At that rate, she would break the single-season league standard of 1,755, which was set by Miami's Kathy Whalen in 1991, if Ball State advances to the championship match of the league tournament.
STILL LOOKING FOR ITS FIRST WIN:
Marshall, which joined the MAC in 1997, has qualified for the conference tournament in each of its first three years but has yet to notch a win. The Thundering Herd, who have also yet to win a tournament game, was bounced by Ball State last year, which is also Marshall's quarterfinal opponent Tuesday. Two years ago, Miami ended the Herd's season.
WHAT A TURNAROUND FOR BG:
The 1999 season has turned into quite a special one for Bowling Green and head coach Denise Van De Walle following a disappointing 1998 season. After finishing with only 16 MAC victories total over the last three seasons, including four league wins last year, the Falcons reached the 10 win mark for the first time since they won 11 back in 1994. The 12 MAC wins in 1999 are the most by a BG squad since 1993, when it won 14 contests.
UA FRESHMAN TRIPLES HER PLEASURE:
Never before had an Akron freshman posted a triple-double, that is until Katie Kuzior earned that status against Ball State on Friday. Kuzior tallied 11 kills, 12 digs and 11 blocks. Kuzior ranks third on the team in both blocks and kills for the season. Akron's other freshman, Jenn Snyder, is second on the squad in digs, behind Julie McDivitt.
SUCCESSFUL ROAD TEAMS:
Of the MAC's 13 teams, eight of them have .500 or better records on the road, including two schools that have losing marks at home. Ball State and Western Michigan have 9-3 and 8-3 records away from home respectively, with Akron and Bowling Green each tallying eight wins. Three schools that have to travel on the road for quarterfinal matches -- Kent, Eastern Michigan and Marshall -- all have winning road records.
SCHAPER, MCDIVITT MOVE UP RANKS:
Akron's Kim Schaper and Julie McDivitt each moved up the career ladder in the MAC record books over the weekend. Schaper, who is second all-time in league history with 5,567 assists, is 227 assists short of tying the league record. McDivitt, meanwhile, moved into second-place in career digs with 1,471 and needs 56 to become the MAC's career leader in digs. McDivitt, who has 563 digs in 1999, is also 20 digs short of setting the league single season mark.
THE RANDY LITCHFIELD FACTOR:
When BSU won the regular-season championship on Friday, the Randy Litchfield's Cardinals became just the second team in league history to earn the title without a senior on their roster. Western Michigan's Rob Buck was selected as the league's Coach of the Year when he became first to accomplish the feat by coaching the 1984 Broncos to a league title. Ball State also became the first team to ever win the championship after losing its league opener. Earning the title means that 33 of the 35 players (94 percent) who have entered and competed for the program over Litchfield's 11 years have won at least one regular-season title.
TOLEDO HAS MANY POSITIVES:
While the Rockets are one of the five teams that did not make the MAC Tournament, there are plenty of positives for the Toledo program in 1999. With eight wins and five league victories, UT more than doubled last year's total of three wins. Also, the Rockets will return 10 letterwinners from this year's team, including Jessica Buck, who leads all MAC freshmen with a .266 hitting percentage.
MEADE WILL BE MISSED IN BUFFALO:
One of three outgoing seniors, Buffalo's Rebecca Meade has left her mark in the Bulls' record books. With 347 kills in 1999, the outside hitter more than doubled her career output in her first two years at UB. Her digs total this season (368) nearly matched the first two seasons combined. Both of her per game totals for kills and digs rank in the top 15, with her 3.76 digs per game total placing her third in the league.
FLASHING NUMBERS IN KENT:
Senior Carrie Patterson leads current Flashes in the all-time statistics with a second-place ranking in digs (1,084) and a third-place listing in kills (1,189) and attack attempts (3,374). Sophomore setter Stephanie Doran is second all-time in career assists (2,251), while senior Kellie Nowak is fourth in block assists (219). Nowak is also sixth in kills (1.026), seventh in total blocks (250) and eighth in hitting percentage (.233).
MORIN, WHITFIELD ARE A DEADLY DUO:
Western Michigan seniors Traci Morin and Mandy Whitfield create a lethal combination for opponents, and their statistics nearly mirror one another. Morin, who leads the MAC with a .410 attack percentage, has accumulated 1,154 kills in her career. On the other hand, Whitfield has totaled 1,151 kills in her career at WMU, and has 1,178 if you add in her freshman year at Kansas State.
TALK ABOUT STRENGTH UP THE MIDDLE:
Ball State middle attackers Susie Meshberger and Julie Zylka -- both only sophomores -- are enjoying two of the most prolific offensive seasons in school history. Meshberger, who is in her first season as a Cardinal, is hitting .373, while Zylka is hitting .368. Those averages would rank second and third, respectively, in school history. Meshberger has also blasted 390 kills this season to rank eighth on the list, while Zylka's 341 places 18th all-time. The duo are also doing the job defensively at the net. Zylka has totaled 148 blocks this season, which ranks eighth in team history, while Meshberger's 130 places her 14th.
DOUBLE M'S FOR THE BOBCATS:
The tandem of Amber Merrill and Katie Mullen made quite a duo in 1999 for Ohio. The pair combined to record 23 kill-dig double-doubles, with Mullen leading the way with 12 and Merrill second with 11. Merrill and Mullen also rank fourth and fifth in the MAC in kills per game, respectively, at 4.19 and 4.10. Between the two they have totaled 908 kills this season. Merrill will enter her senior year 11 kills shy of 1,000 for her career, while Mullen concluded her career with 1,282, the second most in school history.