CLEVELAND -- For the second consecutive year, Ball State
and Miami have both been tabbed as the favorites to win
their respective divisions of the 2000 volleyball season in
the Mid-American Conference, in a vote of the league's head
The RedHawks have been selected to win the East Division
each year since the MAC formed divisions in 1997, while the
Cardinals are picked for the second time to claim the West
With six starters and 12 letterwinners returning from
last season's NCAA Tournament team, Ball State has also been
picked as the favorite to win the MAC Tournament. The
Cardinals, who won 28 matches last year, received nine votes
to win their sixth league championship, while Western
Michigan was picked by three coaches to win the title and
one coach tabbed Akron.
Ball State was a near unanimous choice to win the West
Division, receiving 11 first-place votes and 89 of a
possible 91 points. The defending league champions are
attempting to repeat as tournament champions, a feat that
hasnt been duplicated since the Cardinals claimed four
straight championships from 1992-95.
Among those six starters are four who garnered
all-conference honors last season, including 1999 MAC Player
of the Year Emily Sallee. The senior setter led the league
in assists with a MAC-record 1,863 helpers, and with 4,795
career assists is 1,000 shy of becoming the MACs all-time
leader in that category.
In addition to returning the league's top setter, Ball
State also has last year's kill leader back in junior Megan
Hammons (549 kills in 1999) and two of the top blockers in
the league, juniors Julie Zylka and Susie Meshberger. Zylka
was second a year ago in blocks per game (1.26), while
Meshberger was seventh (1.17) and also returns as the top
hitter in the MAC (.384).
Hoping to deny Ball State its sixth regular season title
is Western Michigan, which was a close second to the
Cardinals in the West Division with two first-place tallies
and 80 points.
The Broncos will search for the offensive arsenal to fill
the void left by first-team all-conference choices Traci
Morin and Mandy Whitfield, who accounted for 845 of the
teams 1775 kills. WMU, which ventured to Europe this summer
as did Ball State, returns honorable mention all-MAC setter
Jen Nowak and Monyka Paul and Zakiya Pope, who combined for
500-plus kills last year.
A distant third in the West is Northern Illinois with 61
points. The Huskies, who were picked to finish second last
season, return five starters but have to replace setter Ali
Frasor. Offensively, the Huskies return senior Mandy Swick,
who was second in the league in kills per game (4.53), and
sophomore Tenisha Wilkins (274 kills).
Defensively, Northern Illinois returns Jen VonderHaar,
the MAC Freshman of the Year last season. VonderHaar was
fourth in the MAC in blocks per game (1.19) and also added
The play at the net was bolstered with the transfer of
Sara Lein, who played for two seasons under current NIU
coach Todd Kress. Lein, a junior middle blocker, was the
Metro Atlantic Player of the Year in 1998 for Fairfield.
Only seven points behind the Huskies for fourth is
Eastern Michigan. The Eagles, who were one of four teams to
reach the 20-win plateau in 1999, are in a similar bind as
Western Michigan in attempting to fill the void of losing
its top offensive threat in Jill Hutton. Hutton, a
second-team all-MAC choice last year, ranked in the
top-seven in the league in three statistical categories.
Returning for EMU is outside hitter Sara Schaub, who led
the Eagles in digs (411) and was second in kills (429), and
junior setter Camila Olaio, one of the top all-around
players in the MAC. Olaio, who was selected an honorable
mention all-conference pick a year ago, led the league and
was nationally ranked in service aces (65), dished out
1,300-plus assists and had 300-plus digs.
The race for the final two spots in the West Division is
tight as five points separate Toledo (36 points) and Central
The Rockets, who will be one of the youngest teams in the
league with four juniors and six sophomores, improved their
win total by five in 1999 and welcome back their top three
offensive threats -- all sophomores. All-MAC Freshman team
selection Jessica Buck paced the Rockets with a .266 hitting
percentage and was second with 282 digs. In addition to
Buck, Becky Radomski led UT as a rookie with 311 kills and
was third in digs (221), while Bitsy Mayhle topped the
Rockets in digs (276) and was third in kills (277).
Like Toledo, Central Michigan will be rich in sophomores
with six and has the leadership with two seniors, Jennifer
Mitchell and Jessica Rocho. Mitchell, who is a three-year
starter entering her final season with the Chippewas, led
the team in kills (350) and ranked in the top-15 in the MAC
in both aces (33) and blocks per game (1.00). Rocho topped
1,100 assists as a junior and had a team-high 320 digs.
Providing stablilty on the outside will be junior Kristin
Tack and sophomore Jenny Young. The pair combined to tally
528 digs a year ago.
The top of the preseason poll in the East Division is a
three-team log jam that is separated by five points from
first to third.
With six first-place votes and 74 points, Miami is picked
to win the East despite losing four starters from last
year's team that finished 16-13. The respect and reputation
commanded to head coach Carolyn Condit and her program is
part of the reason why they were picked first, as Miami lost
its setter and top-two hitters to graduation.
Returning for Miami is junior middle hitter Andrea Stone
and junior outside hitters Lee Ann Karr and Mindy Clark.
Stone was a force in the middle, averaging 0.90 blocks per
game, and also had 252 kills and 245 digs, all of which were
in the top-four on the team. Karr, meanwhile, is the teams
leading returner in kills with 254 and posted 194 digs a
While a total of five points separate the top three spots
in the East Division, only one point stands between Akron
(70) and Kent State (69) for second and third, respectively.
Akron, last year's East champion with a 13-5 league
record, has four starters and six letterwinners returning to
this year's team that received three first-place votes. The
big question facing head coach Mike Sweitzer is who will
replace middle hitter Kim Branam and all-MAC setter Kim
Schaper, who ended her career as the conference's No. 2
Senior Julie McDivitt highlights the Zips returnees.
McDivitt, who has led the MAC in digs in each of the last
two years, will likely become the leagues career leader in
digs within the first couple weeks of the season. Along
with her 582 digs in 1999, which tied a MAC single-season
record, the second-team all-conference outside hitter also
had 362 kills.
In addition to McDivitt, the Zips also return senior
Ashley Lewis and sophomores Katie Kuzior and Jenn Snyder to
the starting lineup. Lewis led the team with 46 aces and
added 292 digs, while Kuzior and Snyder both garnered MAC
all-freshman honors. UA will also have the services of 1998
MAC Freshman of the Year Ashlie Case and fellow sophomore
Miranda Valentine back following season-ending injuries.
Kent State, which advanced to the semifinals of the MAC
Tournament last year, is tabbed for third and returns five
starters but lost two all-MAC performers to graduation --
Carrie Patterson and Kellie Nowak. Patterson led the Golden
Flashes in kills (424) and was second in digs (407), while
Nowak was third in kills (376) and blocks per game (0.59).
Senior outside hitter Carrie McEnery emerged as one of
the MACs top kill producers for KSU, drilling 423 while
leading the team in digs (410).
The Golden Flashes also return starters Stephanie Doran,
Sarah Kutchinski and part-time starters Jen Dreyer and Shiva
Davis. Doran was third in assists per game (12.85) last
year and was also tied for fifth in aces per contest (0.36),
while Kutchinski paced Kent State in blocks per game (0.89)
in addition to recording 237 kills.
Bowling Green, the league's most improved team a year
ago, and Marshall are both tied for fourth with 54 points.
The Falcons, who went from 11 victories in 1998 to 21 last
year, lost four starters including all-MAC choices Melissa
Lewis (first team) and Lori Kemerer (second team). Lewis
was one of the conferences most effective hitters with a
.279 percentage to go with 527 kills (second in the MAC),
while Kemerers 1.34 blocks per game led the league. Along
with Lewis and Kemerer BGSU head coach Denise Van De Walle
will also have to replace setter Heather Greig.
Senior JoAnna Papageorgiou will look to fill the void
left behind by Kemerer in the middle, while senior Amber
Vorst tries to plug the gap of Lewis and Kris Pesorda, who
both graduated. Last year, Papageorgiou missed several
matches due to injury but was still third on the team in
blocks and fourth in kills.
Marshall, which has posted .500 records in each of its
two seasons in the MAC, returns a veteran outside hitter in
Wendy Williams and a pair of sophomores, Sara Boyles and
Heidi Kuethe. Williams, who is one of the top defensive
players in the conference, was one of only two players in
the MAC to average four or more digs a game (4.28) --
Akrons Julie McDivitt was the other.
Both Boyles and Kuethe earned all-freshman honors in
1999. Boyles was second on the squad in 291 kills and
blocks per game (0.85), while Kuethe paced the Herd and was
11th in the MAC in blocks (1.05).
Ohio and first-year head coach Mike Lessinger edged
Buffalo by two points for sixth place in the East Division.
The Bobcats, who received 23 points, will also be among the
youngest and most inexperienced teams in the league. Their
limited experience comes from a pair of senior outside
hitters, Amber Merrill and Kris Whitfield. Merrill led the
team in both kills (465) and blocks per game (1.04), while
Whitfield tallied 213 kills and 215 digs, both of which were
third on the team.
Buffalo, with 21 points, returns six letterwinners and
four starters, including the team's leading offensive weapon
in junior Keri Shiels. Shiels topped the Bulls with 367
kills (3.46 per game) and a .192 hitting percentage. Other
top returnees for the Bulls include juniors Sasha Courbat,
who led the team in blocks (0.86), Heather Barfuss, Amelia
Liddle and Larissa LaCour, as well as sophomore Rebecca
2000 Mid-American Conference Coaches Preseason Poll
1. Miami (6) 74
2. Akron (3) 70
3. Kent State (2) 69
4. Bowling Green (2) 54
6. Ohio 23
7. Buffalo 20
1. Ball State (11) 89
2. Western Michigan (2) 80
3. Northern Illinois 61
4. Eastern Michigan 54
5. Toledo 36
6. Central Michigan 31
MAC Tournament Winner
Ball State 9
Western Michigan 3