MAC Volleyball Notebook -- NCAA Tournament Edition

Updated 11/29/2000
For the fourth time in six years and the first time since 1998, two Mid-American Conference schools will be representing the league in the NCAA Womens Volleyball Championship. Mid-American Conference Tournament Champion Western Michigan earned the automatic bid and runner-up Ball State grabbed an at-large berth during Sunday's selection show.

The Broncos, who have won 19 straight matches and sport a 25-5 overall record, are in the Mideast Region and will face Northern Iowa (28-4) on Friday at 5 p.m. (CST) in Madison, Wis., with the victor facing the winner of the Wisconsin-Bucknell contest Saturday at 7 p.m. WMU is making its ninth appearance in the NCAA Tournament and its first since 1989. The Broncos are 5-8 in NCAA Tournament matches.

WMU's opponent, the Panthers, won the Missouri Valley Conference title and will face a MAC school for the second straight year. Last year, Ball State lost in five games to UNI, which advanced to the Sweet 16.

Ball State (25-6), which is making its first-ever appearance as an at-large team will travel to Columbus, Ohio, to face Ohio State at 7 p.m. on Friday. The winner will play the winner of the Notre Dame-Cincinnati match Saturday at 7 p.m. BSU will be appearing in its sixth NCAA Tournament and have a 2-5 mark.

As a conference, the MAC has a 10-22 record in NCAA Tournament, which breaks down to a .313 winning percentage. Western Michigan has the most wins by a MAC school in the NCAAs with five, and the Broncos are in the postseason for the first time in 11 years. WMU is also the only league school to post two wins in one NCAA Tournament, defeating Nebraska and Purdue in 1983. Ball State, which is appearing in back-to-back NCAA tournaments for the first time since 1994-95, has a 2-5 record in the tournament.

MACs Record in the NCAA Tourney
Northern Illinois* - 2-2 -- .500
Western Michigan - 5-8 -- .385
Ball State - 2-5 -- .286
Miami - 1-6 -- .143
Bowling Green - 0-1 -- .000
Totals - 10-22 -- .313
*Record only since MAC affiliation

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 Michigans win streak increased to 19 straight with wins last week in the MAC Tournament over Central Michigan, Northern Illinois and Ball State, marking the schools longest win streak in 17 seasons. The mark though falls short of the 1983 team that won their first 32 matches. The teams current streak is the third-longest in Division I entering the NCAA Tournament, trailing Nebraskas 28 and the Broncos first-round opponent, Northern Iowas 24 straight victories.

Ball State senior setter Emily Sallee, who became the MACs all-time assists leader on Oct. 20, became only the 11th setter in NCAA Division I history to amass 6,000 assists. The 1999 MAC Player of the Year and runner-up in 2000 accomplished the feat in the Nov. 3 match against Eastern Michigan. With 6,354 career assists, Sallee is fifth all-time and is 25 away from moving into fourth.

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). Western Michigan and Ball States 25 wins lead all league schools, with Northern Illinois (24), Bowling Green (21) and Ohio (20) each totaling at least 20 wins.

The 24 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.

Western Michigan sophomore Angie Sillmon set one MAC Tournament mark and tied another with her blocking performance for the Broncos. The middle blocker established a tournament record with 18 block assists, bettering the old mark of 17, while her 20 total blocks equaled the record. Sillmon, who is third in the MAC in blocks per game (1.24), had 10 blocks in the title match against Ball State, which tied for the fourth-highest total in tournament history.

A total of six MAC volleyball players garnered Verizon Academic All-District honors released on 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.

Sara Schaub leaves Eastern Michigan as the schools 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 1,366 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.

Senior Carrie McEnery became only the third Kent State volleyball player to reach both 1,000 kills-1,000 digs in a career three 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 1,045 kills ranks seventh all-time and the 1,068 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

As if your 300th career victory as a collegiate head coach wasnt memorable enough, WMU head coach Cathy George notched her 300th career win in the Broncos 3-1 victory over Ball State in the 2000 MAC Volleyball Tournament championship match. Her overall record stands at 300-169 (.640) entering the NCAA Tournament. George has compiled a 120-84 mark in seven seasons as the top Bronco. She ranks second on the WMU coaching wins lists for overall (120) and MAC (83) victories.

Miamis 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.

Ball State is making a case as one of the best offensive teams in school history. The Cardinals current attack percentage of .260 is the second-best by a BSU team in school history. Much of the credit goes to juniors Julie Zylka and Susie Meshberger. The duo is 1-2, respectively, in the MAC with hitting percentages of .392 and .378. In addition, with the return of sophomore Katie Butts to be the BSU lineup and junior Megan Hammons, the Cardinals have four offensive weapons. Hammons leads MAC in kills with 551 and is hitting .267 for the season. Butts is fourth on the team in kills this year.

Akrons 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 leagues all-time digs leader (1,814), the senior added assists to her resume in the final weekend of the regular season. McDivitt hit the century mark in kills earlier in the season

Western Michigans 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.

With 75 assists in the 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 1,771 assists on the year in not only the most by a Huskie in a single season, and is also the second most assists registered in a year by a Mid-American Conference player. Furthermore, thanks to the work by Bowman, the 2000 Huskies have 1,973 assists on the year which breaks the previous school record of 1,816 set by the 1992 NIU team. That total is also the second most assists in league history.

Western Michigan middle blocker Zakiya Pope picked up a pair of MAC honors in a span of four days. The junior was named the tournaments MVP last Saturday and four days later (Nov. 29) was tabbed the Player of the Year in a vote by the leagues head coaches. Pope, a native of East Lansing, Mich., led the Broncos to the MAC regular season title, the schools first since 1988, and also helped secure the teams first MAC Tournament championship in 11 seasons -- and also first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1989 -- with a four-game victory over Ball State. The middle hitter, who hit .349 during the regular season and averaged 3.46 kills per game, hit a composite .452 during the Broncos run in the tournament and averaged 3.75 kills and 1.50 blocks per contest en route to capturing MVP honors.

Pope becomes the first Bronco to be named the leagues Player of the Year since Kim Lee won the award in 1992. In addition, she becomes only the third player in league history to garner Player of the Year and tournament MVP accolades in the same year.

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. Despite being hit with a snow storm right around its match with Central Michigan for the MAC quarterfinals, the Broncos drew nearly 700 fans. WMU, which hosted the MAC Tournament, topped 1,000-plus fans for both the semifinals and the championship matches, including 1,549 for the title contest. WMU has had 1,000 or more fans in six of its final seven home matches.

Freshman Susie Norris ended her rookies season with a total of 462 digs this season, setting a school single-season record. In addition, Norris averaged 4.28 digs per contest for the year, shattering 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 53 solo blocks and 182 total rejections this year and is fourth on the block solo list, while her total blocks tied for second. Rommeck has 129 block assists to date, placing her tied for third on that list. Rommeck's 1.63 blocks-per-game average was third on that BGSU seasonal list. Offensively, Rommecks hitting percentage of .336 this year has her on a pace to place fourth on that list.

Ball States match versus Ohio State Friday in the NCAA Tournament will mark the third time in BSUs six trips that the Cardinals have faced a Big Ten opponent in the first round. Ball State owns a 1-1 record in the previous two matches falling to Minnesota in 1993, before posting a 3-2 win at Illinois in 1994. BSU is 1-2 vs. the Big Ten in all NCAA matches.

Bronco head coach Cathy George has pulled off a pair of three-for-threes in her coaching career. The WMU mentor has guided three different schools to the NCAA Tournament, including the Broncos who are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 11 seasons.

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. The seventh-year head coach at WMU also earned league Coach of the Year honors for the sixth time in her career, including her first such honor as the Bronco mentor. George was named MAC Coach of the Year on Nov. 29.

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

Ohios Amber Merrill set a new school record with her first kill against Morehead State, topping the 464 she recorded last year. One of 18 MAC players to top 500 kills in a season -- Merrill finished with 531), she now has Ohios No. 1, 2 and 4 seasons. Merrill completed her career 19 kills shy of Lori Dyers school-record 1,539 kills from 1993-96. She also stands second in career attack attempts with 3,812, which is seventh 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.

Ball State increased its home winning streak to 31-straight following a win over Akron in the quarterfinals of the MAC Tournament. BSU won all 14 home contests this year and ended the 1999 season with 17 straight wins at home. The Cardinals current streak is the second-longest active one in Division I, trailing Northern Iowas 34 straight home victories.

Northern Illinois setter Jenny Bowman was named the MACs Freshman of the Year on Nov. 29, following the same accolade that teammate Jen VonderHaar took home a year ago. Bowman completed the regular season as the MACs leader in assists per game for the Huskies, who won 24 matches this year after notching only 10 in 1999. The Maple Grove, Minn., native passed out 1,771 assists in her rookie campaign, which is an NIU record and ranks as the second-highest output in MAC history and the most by a freshman setter in league annals. Bowman also led the team in aces (43) and was third in digs (327) and total blocks (67).

Ball State junior Megan Hammons set a MAC tournament record for kills in a tournament with 68, bettering the old mark of 67 set by Western Michigans Joanne Bingham in 1989. Hammons had 28 kills against Kent State in the semifinals and led the team with 16 in the championship match. The first-team all-MAC outside attacker is 19th all-time in MAC history with 1,380 kills, which also ranks third in BSU annals. Hammons is one of two players in league history to register back-to-back 500-plus kill seasons, the other being Bowling Greens Tammy Schiller. Ironically, Hammons is chasing Schillers MAC mark of 1,709 career kills.

Michelle Gil continues her climb on the Ohio career assist chart. She now has 2,169 during her career, recently passing Carolyn Cowling (1,975 from 1995-98) for third place. With 1,449 assists this year, Gil set the school record for assists in a season. Gil is ranked fourth in the MAC by averaging 11.98 assists per game.

Central Michigans Jennifer Mitchell joined elite company two weekends ago 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 1,117.

Chippewa setter Jessica Rocho is now tied for second on CMU's career assist list. She finished with 3,112 career setups to rank second all-time at CMU.

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.

WMUs 2000 senior class has played a huge role in helping return the program to the top of the MAC. The Broncos are 52-18 (.743) in conference play during the careers of Kelly Kuharski, Monyka Paul, Jen Nowak, and Alberta Griffin. Western Michigan has posted a winning MAC record every season since the class arrived on campus in 1997, marking the first time since 1989-92 that WMU posted four consecutive winning conference campaigns.

The Broncos increased their league win total every season of their careers. A three-time team captain, Kuharski will finish her career ranked among the program's all-time leaders in digs. Nowak is third in career assists (3,049) and ranks second in the Bronco record books in career assists-per-game average. Paul, a 2000 first team all-MAC selection, has provided the Broncos with steady offensive power and solid defense during her career.

Toledo will return all 11 players from this years team, including a healthy Becky Radomski, who suffered a season-ending knee injury Oct. 6 at Northern Illinois. The Rockets, who were 5-8 before her injury and lost only once in three games, went 2-13 in their final 15 contests and were swept 10 times.