Courtesy of Home MAC Athletic Communications Departments
Northern Illinois 3, Western Michigan 2
Bowling Green 3, Miami 2
KALAMAZOO, Mich. – The Western Michigan volleyball team was embroiled in a dogfight with another top contender for the Mid-American Conference West Division crown, but just narrowly fell in a five-set nail-biter to the Northern Illinois Huskies by a 3-2 (32-30, 18-25, 18-25, 25-22, 15-13) score. With the loss, the Broncos fall to 7-7 on the season, 0-1 in MAC play.
There were a number of positives to glean from the loss, as the Broncos played one of their more complete, balanced matches in sometime despite falling to the Huskies. Five players reached double digits in kills for the first time since Nov. 27, 2010 against Valparaiso; Stephenee Yancy led the charge with 20 kills, and was followed by Rachel Sheffer (15), Ave Stout (14), Claire Gerwig (14), and Alysia Baznik (10). Baznik in fact produced her fourth double-double of the season, totaling 10 kills and a career-high 17 digs. Lexie Pawlik had her fourth double-double of the season as well, producing a career-high 65 assists to go with 14 digs.
The Broncos were led by three players with 17 digs - Baznik, Lena Oliver, and Caroline Rose – and saw two other players reach double-figures in digs (Pawlik – 14, and Kaycee Acree – 16). WMU hit .279 as a team and recorded 91 digs, their most in a single match as a team since notching 100 against Eastern Michigan on Sept. 21, 2013.
WMU dropped a marathon 32-30 first set, but quickly rebounded in the second and third sets to make quick work of the Huskies. The Broncos opened the second set on a 7-3 run, with Stout capping the rally by hand-passing a ball over the net and into the back corner for a kill. Pawlik put the Broncos up 10-7 with a full wind-up and swing for the kill, and the lead stretched to four points with another kill by Stout to make it 15-11. Baznik picked up an ace when she glanced a ball off the arms of Mary Grace Kelly to make it 17-12, and the lead reached its zenith when Yancy pounded a kill off a defender to make it 19-12. The teams traded points for the remainder of the set, with Sheffer giving the Broncos set point with a down line kill to make it 24-18; a Huskie attack error sealed the second set win for the Broncos.
The third set was more of the same, with the Broncos opening on a 9-3 run to put the pressure on the Huskies. WMU trailed briefly to start, but Stout tied the set at 2-2 with a kill and Baznik gave them the lead for good with a kill of her own to make it 4-2. Yancy blasted kills on back-to-back points to give WMU an 8-3 lead, and the Broncos were the first team to 10 points thanks to an NIU attack error. Sheffer made it a six-point set with a tip kill to make it 15-9, and Pawlik tacked on with a setter dump kill to up the lead to seven points. WMU would match that lead on a Yancy kill to make it 21-14, and Stout sealed the deal with a kill to make it 25-18.
However, the Huskies would begin to regain traction, taking the final two sets and stealing the win from the Broncos. NIU overcame a 15-12 WMU lead in the fourth set, going ahead on Kelly’s and Jenna Radtke’s block to make it 18-17; Radtke added another block to make it a two-point lead and force a WMU timeout. Lauren Zielinski quashed the final Bronco rally with a kill to make it 25-22 and tie the set at 2-2. The two teams battled evenly in the fifth set, with NIU taking a 13-10 lead on a kill from Mackenzie Roddy. The Broncos pulled to within 14-13 on a kill from Stout, but a WMU error led to the Huskies taking the set.
OXFORD, Ohio – It was a back-and-forth match that saw the Miami University volleyball team nearly knock off the defending Mid-American Conference Tournament Champions, but ultimately the RedHawks fell to Bowling Green, 2-3 (25-19, 26-24, 24-26, 22-25, 16-18), to open league play Thursday evening. Miami falls to 8-5 overall and 0-1 in the MAC. The Falcons are 4-9 overall and 1-0 in the MAC.
Sophomore middle hitter Jenny Ingle led the way for the RedHawks on Thursday. She finished with 14 kills and five blocks (one solo and four assisted). She made only two attack errors in 31 attempts, finishing with a hitting percentage of .387.
Freshman middle hitter Paige Hill opened the match with a service ace. That along with two kills by freshman outside hitter Maris Below helped Miami take an 8-3 lead to begin set one. Bowling Green answered back with a 7-2 run to cut the deficit to 10-12 and force a RedHawk timeout. Out of the break, a kill from Hill got Miami back on track. In front, 17-15, a kill from Hill and a block by Hill and senior outside hitter Madison Dodd began a 5-2 run that put Miami in control, 22-17. A kill and a solo block from Ingle, along with a kill from sophomore outside hitter Annie Reiswig gave Miami a 25-19 set one victory.
The Falcons took a 4-1 lead to begin set two. Kills from junior outside hitter/setter Meg Riley and Hill off assists from freshman setter Krista Brakauskas, along with a service ace by senior libero Madison Hardy were part of a 9-3 run that put the RedHawks ahead, 10-7. Bowling Green responded with a 4-1 run of its own to tie the score at 11. From there, neither team would have more than a one point lead until the end of the set. Ingle and Hill each had multiple kills as there were six lead changes during this period. Finally, the Falcons scored a kill to create set point at 24-23. Miami called timeout and responded with a kill from Riley. A BGSU setting error and a service ace by Riley gave the RedHawks a 26-24 come-from-behind win.
Tied at six in set three, the Falcons went on an 8-4 run to go in front, 14-10. Hill had a pair of kills and a block to help the RedHawks pull within one at 16-17, but BGSU answered right back with three straight to push the advantage to four. Miami scored five straight off two kills from Ingle, a kill from Riley, a block by Ingle and Riley and a solo block from Riley to regain the advantage at 21-20. The Falcons went on a 4-1 run to create set point at 24-22. Miami fought it off with back-to-back kills from Ingle and Riley off assists from Brakauskas. Unfortunately the comeback was not meant to be as Bowling Green took the next two points to earn a 26-24 victory.
The RedHawks opened a 6-2 lead to begin set four, punctuated by a service ace from Below. The Falcons responded with an 8-4 run to tie the score at 10. Similar to set two, the middle part of the set remained extremely tight. Tied at 18, two straight attack errors by BGSU gave Miami a two-point advantage. The Falcons responded with four straight points to take the lead back by two. A block by Reiswig and Hill pulled Miami to within one, but the RedHawks were unable to get closer as Bowling Green finished off a 25-22 win.
It looked bleak early for Miami in set five as the Falcons opened a 4-1 lead. After a timeout, a kill from Riley, followed by three straight blocks that Hill assisted on gave the RedHawks a 5-4 advantage. Two kills from Below off Riley assists helped Miami push that lead to three at 8-5. Bowling Green responded with three straight points of its own to tie the score, but a kill from Dodd and a block by Dodd and Hill gave the ‘Hawks a 10-8 lead.
Bowling Green fought back with three straight points to take an 11-10 lead. Back-to-back kills by Hill and Ingle gave the advantage to Miami, but the Falcons took it right back with two straight points of their own. A kill by Ingle and a block by Ingle and Riley gave the Red and White match point, but Riley’s attack went just long and retied the score. The RedHawks got two more chances to win the match off a BGSU service error and a kill by Below, but each time the Falcons fought it off. Finally tied at 16, Bowling Green scored two straight points to take an 18-16 win and earn a hard-fought five-set victory.
Hill finished with 13 kills, nine blocks and six digs. Riley had a double-double with 11 kills and 25 assists, and also contributed seven digs and seven blocks (one solo, six assisted). Below had a double-double with 10 kills and 10 digs. Brakauskas led Miami with 30 assists, while Hardy had 28 digs. The senior libero is only 22 digs away from breaking Melissa Zenz’s (’09) all-time record (when liberos are included) of 1,481 digs for all players at Miami. The RedHawks finished with 15 total blocks in the match.
Miami looks to get back on the winning track when it hosts Western Michigan on Saturday at 5 p.m. The match will air live on Miami All-Access for those who have a subscription.