THE MAC AND THE NCAA TOURNEY:
For the first time in three years, the Mid-American Conference received only one bid to the NCAA Tournament -- Ball State's automatic bid following the Cardinals' victory in the league tournament over Western Michigan. Last year, Northern Illinois and Miami both advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. In fact, Ball State, which is making its fifth appearance in the NCAA Tournament, is the first league school other than the Huskies and the RedHawks to appear in the postseason since 1995. That year, BSU and Miami represented the MAC, with the Cardinals advancing to the second round after a win over Loyola Chicago.
A LOOK AT THE NUMBERS:
As a conference, the MAC has a 10-21 record in NCAA Tournament, which breaks down to a .323 winning percentage. Ball State, which last appeared in 1995, has a 2-4 record in the tournament. Western Michigan has the most wins by a MAC school in the NCAAs with five, but the Broncos haven't appeared in the postseason since 1989. WMU is also the only league school to post two wins in one NCAA Tournament, defeating Nebraska and Purdue in 1983.
DIVISION CHAMPIONS CROWNED:
Akron claimed its first-ever divisional title in volleyball, the East Division, with a 13-5 league record, finishing one game ahead of Bowling Green. Entering the tournament, the Zips had matched their win total of 1998 (18), which is the team's most since 24 victories in 1995. Akron has also equaled its league win production of a year ago, the most conference wins by a Zip squad.
In the West, Ball State won its fifth regular season title in the 1990s, following the Cardinals' win at Akron and coupled with Western Michigan's loss at Northern Illinois in the final week of the regular season. 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 MAC AGAINST TOP-25 TEAMS:
While the Mid-American conference did have a winning mark against non-conference opponents (77-71) in 1999, the league was winless in 12 tries versus nationally-ranked opponents. Ball State, which has an 11-5 mark in road (9-3) and neutral (2-2) contests, has yet to play a nationally-ranked foe but will face its first of the year when it plays No. 17 Northern Iowa in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers, who have won the last two Missouri Valley Conference tournament titles, are the nation's only remaining unbeaten team at 28-0.
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 28 wins leads all league schools, with Western Michigan (25), Bowling Green (21) and Eastern Michigan (20) each totaling at least 20 wins.
The 28 wins for BSU are most under coach Randy Litchfield, bettering the 26 wins in 1993. WMU's 25 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.
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 at the end of the regular season.
East Division Pick +/-
Akron 2nd +1
Bowling Green 4th +2
Miami 1st -2
Kent 5th +1
Marshall 6th +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
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. The Falcons nearly reversed its record from a year ago (11-22) with a 21-12 mark in 1999.
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 (28). 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.
THE STREAK CONTINUES AT BSU:
When Ball State defeated Western Michigan to win the Mid-American Conference Tournament and advance to the NCAA Tournament, it kept alive a streak in Muncie. All 35 players who have entered the program during Randy Litchfield's 11 years as head coach and competed in at least one season have won at least one league tourney and qualified for at least one NCAA tourney. No current member of the team had accomplished the feat until Saturday. In addition, an amazing 33 of the 35 (94 percent) student-athletes who have played their entire careers for Litchfield have won at least one regular-season title.
WINS ARE BEGINNING TO PILE UP:
BSU's 28 victories are the most by a team coached by Litchfield. The win total betters the 26 managed by his 1993 team to rank fourth all-time in school history. The 1982 Cardinals place third with 32, while the 1974 and 1977 teams tie the school record with 35 wins each. Western Michigan set the league record with 32 wins in 1983, while BSU's current victory total ties for fifth in league history with Eastern Michigan (1990), Western Michigan (1987) and Miami (1985). Bowling Green managed 29 wins in 1991 to rank fourth, with the 1992 Falcon squad third with 30 wins. Central Michigan (1983) is second all-time with 31 victories.
SALLEE DISHES THE CARDS A TITLE:
Junior Emily Sallee tied the fourth-highest assists total in NCAA Division I history for a three-game match when she dished out 75 in the victory over Western Michigan. It also ties the fifth-best effort in BSU annals for all matches. Sallee owns 14 of BSU's top 24 totals for assists in a match, with seven of those occurring this season.
SALLEE TOPS SINGLE SEASON MARK:
Ball State's Emily Sallee's 75 assists in the championship victory over Western Michigan improved her season total to 1,802, breaking the previous Mid-American Conference record of 1,755, set by Miami's Kathy Whalen in 1991. The current assist mark also shatters the previous school standard of 1,545, which the junior set last season. Her current total this year represents the ninth-highest single-season effort in NCAA Division I history.
SALLEE ADDS TO HER PORTFOLIO:
Despite being only a junior, Sallee has become Ball State's all-time leader in assists. She has increased her total to 4,734. That betters Wendy Carter's previous school record of 4,404. Sallee is on pace to record 6,383 assists for her career, which would shatter the existing MAC record of 5,794, which is held by Miami's Jessica Stout. Sallee's projected total would rank third in NCAA women's volleyball history. Sallee also continues to add hardware to her trophy case as she repeated as a first-team all-MAC selection this season, one of only two to accomplish that feat. In addition, she was the league's Freshman of the Year in 1997 and was named the MAC's Player of the Year in 1999.
WMU'S LIST OF ACCOMPLISHMENTS:
While the 1999 Western Michigan volleyball team suffered a tough three-game loss in the tournament title match, the Broncos have several positives to look back on. WMU notched its most overall wins (25) since 1987 and most MAC victories since the 1986 team won 16. Picked to finish third in the MAC's West Division, the Broncos won their first 13 conference matches to start the season and stayed in the hunt for the West Division title until the final week of the regular season. WMU went on to win its first postseason matches in 10 seasons and advance to the tournament title match for the first time since 1989. Western Michigan was ranked among national leaders in hitting percentage for nearly the entire season. Two WMU players -- Traci Morin and Mandy Whitfield -- were named to the all-conference first team, marking the first time in 11 seasons two Broncos were named to that team in the same year.
HAMMONS DEFIES THE JINX THEORY:
Forget what people say about the second-year jinx, sophomore Megan Hammons is having one of the top offensive seasons ever by a BSU sophomore. She totaled 22 kills in the title win over Western Michigan to improve her season total to 533, which is the second-highest single-season effort in team history. The sophomore needs just three kills to break Mindy Stanley's school record of 535, which was set in 1995 . Hammons has already shattered the previous BSU sophomore record of 361, which was set by Michele Winkle in 1982. Hammons, who is just the third player in school history to record 500 kills in a season, has led BSU in kills in a match 17 times this season When she has led the team in kills this season, the Cardinals are a perfect 17-0, and BSU is 20-1 in her career.
HAMMONS, PART TWO:
Ball State's Megan Hammons has hammered 10-or-more kills in a match 26 times this season. That betters the previous sophomore record of 20 set by Lindsay Follin in 1996. It also ties the third-best effort in team history. In addition, Hammons has also registered 20-or-more kills in a match 10 times this year to also establish a new sophomore mark.
BSU'S 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 after transferring from Indiana State, is hitting .381, while Zylka is hitting .362. Those averages would rank second and third, respectively, in school history. And they have also done it while compiling two of the highest single-season kill totals in team annals. Meshberger has blasted 435 kills this season to
rank fifth on the list, while Zylka's 370 place 12th. This marks the first time in the 28-year history of BSU women's volleyball that two middle attackers have eclipsed 350 kills in a season. In addition to piling up totals in the kills column, the pair are also doing the job defensively at the net. Zylka has totaled 155 blocks this season, which ranks sixth in team history, while Meshberger's 146 places her 10th.
MORIN ETCHES HER NAME IN HISTORY:
Bronco senior Traci Morin made a case to be included among WMU's all-time great volleyball players this season. Morin's senior campaign might be one of the best single-season performances in school history. Morin concluded the year with a .404 hitting percentage and was ranked as high as No. 3 nationally in that category. She established personal bests in kills (393) and hitting percentage (.404) in her final year to help the Broncos post their best season of the decade. Morin's .345 career hitting percentage ranks No. 2 all-time in school history while her 406 career blocks are No. 3 all time. Morin is the only player in program history to individually lead the team in blocks in three consecutive seasons. On the Bronco kills chart, she ranks No. 8 with 1,161. She is just the second player in school history to finish her collegiate career with an attack rate higher than .330 and is the first player in 12 seasons to finish with a career average higher than .300. The Bay City, Mich., native modeled a career of consistency in her final three seasons as a Bronco. Morin has hit .348, with 1,150 kills, 560 digs, and 385 blocks since the end of her freshman season.
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. The three schools that had to travel on the road for quarterfinal matches -- Kent, Eastern Michigan and Marshall -- all had winning road records, with the Golden Flashes the only team of that trio to capture a win away from home when they upset third-seeded Akron in the conference tournament.
AKRON'S MCDIVITT MOVES UP RANKS:
Akron's Julie McDivitt continued to move up the career ladder in the MAC record books with her performance against Kent in the league tournament. McDivitt equaled the MAC's single-season mark for digs with 582 following her 19-dig match versus Kent. The senior-to-be also has 1,490 digs and needs 37 next season to become the conference's career leader in that category.
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.