THE TOURNEY FIELD IS SET:
The eight-team field is set for the 16th Mid-American Conference Volleyball Championship, though there is still one week remaining in the regular season. Miami, Eastern Michigan, Marshall and Kent qualified over the weekend, joining Western Michigan, Ball State, Bowling Green and Akron, which had earned berths over the previous two weeks.
The four winners from the quarterfinals will advance to the highest remaining seed for the semifinals and championship match, Friday and Saturday, Nov. 26-27.
DIVISION TITLES ON THE LINE:
Both the East and West Division titles are on the line this weekend in the league's final matches of the regular season. Akron, which has a game and a half lead over second-place Bowling Green, will claim its first-ever divisional title if it wins one of its matches against either Ball State or Central Michigan. The Zips, who are already assured of at least a co-championship, can also win it outright should the Falcons lose their match at Buffalo.
In the West, Ball State can win its sixth regular season title in the 1990s with wins against both the Zips and Kent. It can also win the title with a split and a Broncos loss at Northern Illinois, or nab a share of the title with a split and a WMU win or two BSU losses and a WMU loss.
EMU IS IN, NIU IS OUT:
For the first time since 1990, the EMU volleyball squad will play in the MAC Tournament. The Eagles have put together their best season since 1990, going 18-10 and 9-7 in conference play to date, the best records for fourth-year head coach Kim Berrington. EMU is guaranteed its first winning season since 1993, when the Eagles finished with an 18-11 mark, and will aim for the team's first 20-win season since 1990.
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.
HOME COURT IN THE QUARTERS:
Three of the four home courts for the quarterfinals of the league's postseason tournament are set. Western Michigan and Ball State, solidified two of the spots two weekends ago, while Akron grabbed one of the two remaining slots this past weekend. With one more win in their final two contests, the Zips will clinch the third seed for the tourney. Bowling Green, meanwhile, will lock down the fourth and final home court if it wins at Buffalo. It could also grab the fourth spot if both Eastern Michigan and Miami split its remaining two league contests.
MIAMI AND THE MAC TOURNAMENT:
With its win against Buffalo on Saturday, Miami 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.
SALLEE SETS SET STANDARD:
Despite being just a junior, Emily Sallee became Ball State's all-time leader in assists in Saturday's victory at Central Michigan. Sallee totaled 61 assists in the match to increase her career total to 4,430, breaking Wendy Carter's (1992-96) previous standard of 4,404. Sallee could break her own school record for assists in a season as early as this week. She is averaging 52 assists per match and enters this week with 1,498 assists for the season.
Sallee set BSU's single-season standard with 1,545 assists in 1998. With the Cardinals assured of at least one match in the MAC Tourney, she is on pace for 1,654 assists this season. That would be the second-highest single-season effort ever in the MAC. Sallee is also on the verge of breaking her own league mark for assists-per-game average. Her current average of 14.27 would shatter the record of 13.67 she set last season.
HOME MATCH MEANS A WIN?:
Entering the final week of the regular season, seven of the league's teams have 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 (8-4) and Bowling Green (6-3) each have won 67 percent of its home contests with two and one contest at home remaining, respectively. Eastern Michigan (8-5), Buffalo (9-8) and Akron (5-4) are the other schools with home winning records and all three have two matches on its home court left.
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 two weeks remaining in the regular season.
East Division Pick +/-
Akron 2nd +1
Bowling Green 4th +2
Miami 1st -2
Marshall 6th +2
Kent 5th +1
Buffalo 7th +1
Ohio 3rd -4
West Division Pick +/-
Ball State 1st even
Western Michigan 3rd +1
Eastern Michigan 4th +1
Northern Illinois 2nd -2
Toledo 6th +1
Central Michigan 5th -1
BOYLES' BLOCK PARADE:
Marshall freshman Sara Boyles registered a career-best 12 total blocks in the Herd's five-game loss to Northern Illinois. Boyles' total was the third-highest output in Marshall history for a single match. The first-year player added another three blocks versus Western Michigan and leads the team with a 1.07 per game average, which is also 11th in the league. Boyles is second among freshmen in blocks, trailing Northern Illinois' Jen VonderHaar (1.13).
PATTERSON NETS 1,000 DIGS:
Kent outside hitter Carrie Patterson recently became the second player in school history to eclipse the 1,000 dig barrier for her career, joining Larisa Grinbergs. The senior, who has 1,052 career digs, set a new personal best with 32 digs in the Golden Flashes' win at Buffalo. The match total was one short of the team record of 33, set in 1984. Patterson is also fourth all-time in career kills with 1,145 and is 25 away from tying for third place.
ALI'S BLOCKING SPREE:
Miami's Alissia Thompson has continued her productivity at the net last week, posting eight blocks against Akron and five against Buffalo. With her two solo blocks against the Zips, Thompson upped her season total to 22 and placed her name in the ninth-place spot on Miami's single-season solo block chart. She also owns the 10th-place spot on the career solo block chart with 46.
In Miami's past nine matches, Thompson has amassed 40 blocks. This season she has posted four or more blocks on 13 occasions and seven or more blocks on six matches. For her career, Thompson has compiled 34, 4-plus block outings, while amassing 10 or more in three matches.
KEMERER IS SEEING 20-20:
Bowling Green senior Lori Kemerer recorded a 21-kill, 20-dig performance in the Falcons' win at Toledo. The middle blocker also added eight block assists in the match and moved past the 400 block assist total for her career. With 403 block assists during her stay at BG, Kemerer is four blocks short of moving into the top-five in the history of the MAC and 10 shy of becoming the school's all-time leader in that category.
OHIO PLAYS THE SPOILER:
Though the Bobcats did not qualify for the league's postseason tournament, the team is playing some of its best volleyball late in the season. Ohio pulled off a major upset last Friday, knocking Western Michigan out of first place in the West Division in three games. OU held the Broncos to 12 percent hitting as a team, and received 16 kills from Kristina Whitfield, 12 from Amber Merrill and 11 from Katie Mullen. The next night, the team eliminated Northern Illinois from postseason play with a five-game victory in Ellen Dempsey's last home match as Ohio's head coach. Dempsey, a six-year veteran at OU, resigned last month effective in December to pursue other career opportunities.
SCHAUB IS TROUBLE, TWICE OVER:
Eastern Michigan junior outside hitter Sara Schaub is continuing her attack on double-doubles this season. She has posted double-doubles in 20-of-27 matches she has played in, including eight of the last 10. She has 358 kills, second on the team, and leads the team and is sixth in the MAC in digs per game (3.54).
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.
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, and there is still one week of the regular season and the MAC Tournament left. After finishing with only 16 MAC victories total over the last three seasons, including four league wins last year, the Falcons have reached the 10 win mark for the first time since they won 11 back in 1994. They equaled that win total with a win at Toledo on Friday, and should BG win both of its matches this week it would mark the school's first 20-win season since 1993.
SUCCESSFUL ROAD TEAMS:
While six of the MAC's 13 teams have had their difficulties at home, two of those schools have winning marks on the road. Marshall is 2-6 at home but is 7-5 on the road. Kent, which is 2-8 at home, is also 7-5 in road contests and 6-3 in MAC road matches. The top two teams in the conference -- Ball State and Western Michigan -- put their league-best 8-2 road records on the line this weekend.
CMU SNAPS LOSING STREAK:
Central Michigan snapped a school-record 10-match losing streak last Tuesday in a sweep of Oakland. The Chippewas, which hit .315 as a team, were led by Jennifer Mitchell's 16 kills and .609 attack percentage. Mitchell also added five blocks in the match, as did teammate Tennille Hileski. In addition, CMU also got 10 kills from Stacey Bida.
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 had 162 assists in three matches, climbed into second-place all-time in league history with 5,467 assists. McDivitt, meanwhile, vaulted into fourth-place in career digs with 1,434 and needs 34 to move into third-place and 36 for second-place, which would also move McDivitt to fourth all-time at Akron.
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 seven wins to date and four 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 freshmen with a .267 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 326 kills in 1999, the outside hitter more than doubled her career output in her first two years at UB. Her digs total this season (339) has nearly matched the first two seasons combined. Both of her per game totals for kills and digs rank in the top 12, with her 3.73 digs per game total placing her third in the league.
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 .414 attack percentage, has accumulated 1,140 kills in her career. On the other hand, Morin has totaled 1,139 kills in her career at WMU, and has 1,166 if you add in her freshman year at Kansas State.