MAC Volleyball Notebook -- Tournament Edition

Updated 11/21/2000
The eight-team field is set for the 17th Mid-American Conference Volleyball Championship, though the site of the semifinals and championship matches has yet to be decided. The four winners from Tuesdays quarterfinals will advance to the highest remaining seed for the semifinals and championship match, Friday and Saturday, November 24-25. Times for the next two rounds will be announced following quarterfinal contests.
The eight qualifiers and their seeds are as follows:
1. Western Michigan
2. Ball State
3. Bowling Green
4. Ohio
5. Northern Illinois
6. Kent State
7. Akron
8. Central Michigan

Bowling Green and Ohio both earned a share of the East Division crown after compiling 12-6 marks. The title for the Falcons was their first-ever divisional crown and the first regular season title since 1992, while the title for the Bobcats was the schools first ever.

Western Michigan recorded its first-ever West Division title, and also became the first school other than Ball State or Northern Illinois to claim a part of the West crown. In addition, the Broncos 17-1 league record was the best in the conference and earned WMU the honor of MAC Champion, which goes to the school with the best winning percentage in the regular season. In addition, the regular season crown was the schools first since 1988, when WMU finished 8-0.

Western Michigan's win streak increased to 16 straight with wins last weekend over Ball State and Northern Illinois, marking the school's longest win streak in 15 seasons. The 1985 team also won 16 straight matches. Bronco teams also won 18 consecutive matches in 1984, respectively, though all of those marks fall way short of the 1983 team that won their first 32 matches.

For the first time since 1993, Miami missed qualifying for the Mid-American Conferences postseason tournament, falling one spot short of the eight-team tournament. The RedHawks owned a streak of six-straight MAC Tournament appearances, which is tied with Central Michigan for the fourth-longest string in league history behind Western Michigan and Ball State.

Consecutive MAC Tournament Appearances
1.Ball State (1991-pr.) -- 10
2.Western Michigan (1980-82, 87-92) -- 9
3.Bowling Green (1989-95) -- 7
4.Miami (1994-99) -- 6
Central Michigan (1980-82, 87-89) -- 6

Ball State senior setter Emily Sallee, who became the MAC's all-time assists leader on Oct. 20, became only the 11th setter in NCAA Division I history to amass 6,000 assists. The reigning MAC Player of the Year accomplished the feat in the Nov. 3 match against Eastern Michigan. With 6,181 career assists, Sallee is seventh all-time and is 120 away from moving into sixth.

Sara Schaub leaves Eastern Michigan as the school's all-time leader in attempts with 4,215 and digs with 1,388. She is on the career lists in kills (2nd with 1,405), block assists (6th with 190), service aces (6th with 111) and games played (7th with 378).

On single season records, she holds three of the top ten seasons in attempts (2000 with 1366 for 2nd; also 5th and 6th), kills (422 in 2000 for 7th; 6th and 11th), digs (460 in 2000 for 2nd; 6th and 7th) and has the fifth highest single season total in service aces in this season with 51. Schaub is currently on the MAC's all-time list in kills (15th), attempts (2nd) and digs (8th) for a career. She averaged over four kills and four digs this season, which is the first time in league history that a player has averaged over four kills and digs a game in both categories.

A total of six MAC volleyball players garnered Verizon Academic All-District honors released last Thursday (Nov. 16), with four of them being placed on the national ballot for Academic All-America honors after being named to the first team. Team members are selected by a vote of members of the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).

Ball States Emily Sallee (3.74 GPA, Elementary Education) and Julie Zylka (3.417, Elementary Education) were both named to the first team, as was Ohios Michelle Gil (3.89, Business) and Bowling Greens JoAnna Papageorgiou (3.85, Biology). Named to the second team all-District were Akrons Ashlie Case (4.00, Philosophy) and Eastern Michigans Sara Schaub (3.86, Accounting). The Verizon Academic All-America teams will be announced Tuesday, December 12.

For the sixth consecutive season, the MAC had at least four teams register 20 or more wins in a season, and this year tied a league mark with five schools reaching the level (only other time was in 1998). Northern Illinois' and Ball State's 23 wins leads all league schools, with Western Michigan (22), Bowling Green (21) and Ohio (20) each totaling at least 20 wins.

The 23 wins by NIU marks the first time since 1998 that the Huskies tallied 20-plus victories, while the Cardinals reached the mark for the mark for the ninth straight year. Western Michigan has hit the 20-win mark three times in the last five seasons, while the Falcons recorded back to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since they won 20 or more from 1989-93. Ohio, meanwhile, has equaled the second-most wins in school history, joining the 1998 squad. The Bobcats are shooting for the school mark of 21, which is held by the 1995 team.

Senior Carrie McEnery became only the third Kent State volleyball player to reach both 1,000 kills-1,000 digs in a career two weekends ago. Former Golden Flashes Larissa Grinbergs (1,394 kills-1,416 digs) and Carrie Patterson (1,215 kills-1,115 digs) reached the prestigious mark in their careers. The 1,018 kills ranks seventh all-time and the 1,029 digs ranks third all-time.

In the fourth and final NCAA regional rankings released Nov. 15, three MAC schools were named in the Mideast Region. Western Michigan was sixth, while Ball State was ninth and Bowling Green 10th.

NCAA Division I Womens Volleyball
Mideast Rankings (Nov. 15)
School -- W-L
1.Wisconsin -- 24-3
2. Minnesota -- 25-2
3.Penn State -- 23-5
4.Ohio State -- 21-5
5.Michigan State -- 15-10
6.Western Michigan -- 20-5
7.Fairfield -- 25-5
8. Michigan -- 17-10
9.Ball State -- 22-4
10.Bowling Green -- 19-8

Ball State is making a case as one of the best offensive teams in school history. The Cardinals' current attack percentage of .270 is the best-ever by a BSU team. Much of the credit goes to juniors Susie Meshberger and Julie Zylka. The duo is 1-2, respectively, in the MAC with hitting percentages of .397 and .388. In addition, with the return of sophomore Katie Butts to the BSU lineup and junior Megan Hammons, the Cardinals have four offensive weapons. Hammons leads the team in kills and is hitting .275 for the season. Butts is fourth on the team in kills this year.

Akron's Julie McDivitt entered unchartered territory for any player in MAC history as she became the first player in league annals to register the century mark in three statistical categories -- kills, assists and digs. Already the league's all-time digs leader (1,806), the senior added assists to her resume last Friday. McDivitt hit the century mark in kills earlier in the season

Western Michigan's 3-0 victory at Central Michigan Nov. 11 gave the team 20 victories for the year, marking the first time since the 1986 and 1987 seasons that the Bronco volleyball team won 20 or more matches in consecutive campaigns. Western Michigan has now won 20 or matches in a single season 14 times, including three such campaigns under Cathy George. Georges 1996 squad posted a 20-8 record.

Michelle Gil continues her climb on the Ohio career assist chart. She now has 2,110 during her career, recently passing Carolyn Cowling (1,975 from 1995-98) for third place. With 1,390 assists this year, Gil will likely set the school record for assists in a season (1,415) in the quarterfinal match. Gil is ranked fourth in the MAC by averaging 11.88 assists per game.

Central Michigan's Jennifer Mitchell joined elite company last weekend becoming only the second player in Chippewa history to record 1,000 career kills, 800 career digs and 350 career blocks. She also moved up a notch on the CMU career kills list to sixth with 1,107.

Chippewa setter Jessica Rocho is now tied for second on CMU's career assist list. She has 3,084 career setups to tie Karen Hubbard for the No. 2 spot. Rocho ranks among the MAC leaders in three categories this season.

There is no better time than the end of the regular season to put together a winning streak, especially when that streak approaches the conference tournament. While much of the attention may be directed towards Western Michigans 16-match winning streak, Bowling Green and Kent State each have put together current eight-match win streaks, though one streak will end as the two face one anther in the quarterfinals of the MAC Tournament.

In fact, Bowling Green, which began the MAC year 2-5, won 10 of its last 11 league contests. Kent State, meanwhile, qualified for the tournament after winning only three of its first 10 league contests and has won a school-record eight straight MAC matches.

With 75 assists in Saturday's regular season finale versus Western Michigan, freshman setter Jenny Bowman broke the Northern Illinois single-season assist mark of 1,600 held by Shelby Snyder in 1992. Bowman's 1,663 assists on the year in not only the most by a Huskie in a single season, it is also the third most assists registered in a year by a Mid-American Conference player. Furthermore, thanks to the work by Bowman, the 2000 Huskies have 1,850 assists on the year which breaks the previous school record of 1,816 set by the 1992 NIU team.

Miami's freshman middle hitter duo of Susan Poll and Jessica Rayburg and sophomore outside hitter tandem of Kelly McCullough and Erika Eagan produced strong finishes at the conclusion of the 2000 campaign. Despite two three-game losses this weekend, these four show a very promising future for Miami volleyball. Poll, a front-row player, led the RedHawks both nights in kills (14 and 13). She also hit above .300 both nights, including a team-best .379 on Saturday. Rayburg capped-off 2000 with four blocks; she led the team this season in total blocks, block assists and blocks per game.

McCullough continued her consistent presence, registering in double figures both nights and knocking down 11 blocks over the weekend (1.83 per game). McCullough led Miami this season in kills per game, hitting percentage and solo blocks. Eagan produced the fifth-best single-match dig sum this season with 20 against Kent State and the most single-match digs per game average (6.67) of any RedHawk this season. She added 12 kills and two service aces to her performance.

Not only were the Broncos' weekend matches big, but the crowds that turned out for the final two regular season matches were huge. Western Michigan attracted 1,541 fans for its Friday contest with Ball State, a season-high at the time. Western Michigan surpassed that total when 2,021 fans showed up Saturday at University Arena to witness the Broncos' title-clinching victory over Northern Illinois. Heading into its match Tuesday with Central Michigan, WMU has had 1,000 or more fans in its last four home matches.

Freshman Susie Norris has a total of 441 digs this season, and is just 14 shy of the school single-season record, currently held by Holli Costein (455 digs in 1992). Norris is averaging 4.24 digs per contest through 29 matches and is well on pace to shatter the school average of 3.80, by Jo Lynn Williamson in 1987.

Junior Caty Rommeck is moving up the BGSU single-season list in several blocking categories. Rommeck has 49 solo blocks and 173 total rejections this year and is tied for fifth on the solo-block list, along with Lisa Mika (1991). Rommeck has 124 block assists to date, placing her seventh on that list. She is one block assist out of sixth, two out of fifth, and needs just six block assists to move into a tie for second place. Rommeck's 1.63 blocks-per-game average puts her on a pace to finish third on that BGSU seasonal list. Offensively, Rommeck's hitting percentage of .336 this year has her on a pace to place fourth on that list.

Below is a comparison of the leagues preseason poll, which was released back in August, in relation to where the teams stand at the end of the regular season.

East Division - Pick - +/-
Bowling Green - T4th - +3
Ohio - 6th - +5
Akron - 2nd - -1
Kent State - 3rd - even
Miami - 1st - -4
Marshall - T4th - -2
Buffalo - 7th - even

West Division - Pick - +/- Western Michigan - 2nd - +1 Ball State - 1st - -1 Northern Illinois - 3rd - even Central Michigan - 6th - +2 Eastern Michigan - 4th - -1 Toledo - 5th - -1

In the previous eight seasons, each of Randy Litchfield's team have won or tied for some sort of Mid-American Conference Championship. Litchfield is looking to extend that streak to nine straight seasons with a tournament championship at stake this week. His 1992 team started the streak with the schools first MAC Tournament title and trip to the NCAA Tournament. The 1993 Cardinals went 18-0 in the MAC to claim the schools first regular-season title before winning the league tourney and advancing to the NCAAs. Litchfields 1994 team went 17-0 in the league, won the MAC Tournament and advanced to the NCAA event.

The 1995 Cardinals won the conference tournament and hosted an NCAA first-round game. The 1997 and 1998 Cardinals tied Miami and Northern Illinois for the regular-season titles. Last years team captured the regular-season title, won the MAC Tournament and advanced to its fifth NCAA Tournament. The only other conference school to win some sort of title for as many consecutive years was Western Michigan, which did it over eight straight years (1982-89).

Ohio's Amber Merrill set a new school record with her first kill last Tuesday, topping the 464 she recorded last year. One of 17 MAC players to top 500 kills in a season (currently at 512), she now has Ohios No. 1, 2 and 4 seasons. Merrill needs just 38 kills to equal Lori Dyer, who recorded 1,539 from 1993-96. She also stands second in career attack attempts with 3,757, which is eighth in MAC history. Five times this year Merrill has eclipsed the 30-kill mark in a match, the most by any player in the MAC this season.

Kent State will be making its second straight MAC Tournament appearance and third in the last four years under head coach Mora Kanim. Both the 1997 and 1999 clubs advanced to the semifinals with quarterfinal victories. Kanim has upped her record to 59-64 (.480) overall and 36-34 (.514) in Mid-American Conference action. She is currently third all-time at Kent State in wins and second all-time in winning percentage.

Ball State increased its home winning streak to 30-straight following wins over Miami, Eastern Michigan and Toledo two weekends ago. BSU won all 13 home contests this year and ended the 1999 season with 17 straight wins at home, and the Cardinals will attempt to extend the streak on Tuesday when it hosts Akron in the MAC Quarterfinals. The Cardinals current streak is the second-longest active one in Division I, trailing Northern Iowas 34.

The relative success and failure of Northern Illinois this season can largely be attributed to the play of the two Huskie sophomore middle blockers, Rena Widboom and Jen VonderHaar. In matches where Widboom registers an attack percentage higher than .400, NIU is 10-0. In matches where VonderHaar hits over .400, the Huskies are an equal 10-0. When Widboom reaches double-figures in kills NIU is 15-3 while the Huskies are 20-5 in matches where VonderHaar gets 10-plus kills.

Bronco head coach Cathy George is trying to go three-for-three in her coaching career. The WMU mentor has guided two schools to the NCAA Tournament and is trying to make Western Michigan her third program to qualify. George led North Dakota State to a pair of NCAA Division II Tournament appearances (1987 and 1988). She followed that up by leading Texas-Arlington to the 1989 and 1990 NCAA Tournaments. UTA placed third in the nation in 1989.

After seven players had missed at least three games due to injury this season, the injury bug struck Marshall again in the match versus Ohio. Tracey King was lost during the match due to a back injury. Sara Boyles had to be moved from middle blocker to outside hitter. That left Marshall with just one healthy outside hitter, Jodi Fick.

Buffalo junior Larissa LaCour finished her first season as the Bulls' starting setter with 1,040 assists, which is the sixth-highest single season total in school history. LaCour was the only Bull to start every match and play in every game this year.

Freshman Lindsay Matikosh completed her freshman year by ranking in the top-10 in two statistical categories. Matikosh ended the year averaging 2.46 kills and 2.65 digs, both of which rank eighth in UB history.