Miami, Ball State Picked To Win MAC Volleyball Divisions

Updated 8/18/1999
CLEVELAND (Aug. 18)-- Miami and Ball State have been tabbed to win their respective divisions of the volleyball season in the Mid-American Conference, in a vote by the league's head coaches. Since 1997, the MAC has been competing in divisional play and the RedHawks have been selected first each year to win the East Division, while Ball State is picked to win the West Division for the first time.

A near unanimous choice this year, Miami received 11 out of a possible 13 first-place votes and 89 points of a possible 91 to win the East Division, while Ball State edged out Northern Illinois for the top spot in the West, garnering eight first-place votes and 72 points, compared to the Huskies' 65. The RedHawks, who are the defending MAC Tournament champion, were also picked to win their second consecutive postseason title, while Ball State and Akron also received votes to win the league title.

While Miami does return only three starters from last year's 27-8 squad, one of them is middle hitter Alissia Thompson, the 1998 MAC Player of the Year. Thompson was second on the team in both kills (415) and total blocks (119), and will have help on the outside from Mindy Collins (385 kills, 403 digs) and setter Kerry Hardek (1,582 assists). The RedHawks will attempt to continue their trend over the last four years this upcoming season: four 20-win seasons, four MAC regular season titles and four NCAA appearances.

Akron, which received the other two first-place votes in the East Division and 69 points, will be paced by outside hitters Julie McDivitt, an honorable mention all-MAC choice last year, and Ashlie Case, the league's Freshman of the Year. McDivitt finished last year No. 2 in the nation in digs per game (4.9) and was also second on the team in kills (322), while Case registered 304 kills and 300 digs.

Ohio, which registered a 20-14 record a year ago after an 8-22 mark the previous season, is picked to finish third in the East, just behind the Zips with 65 points. The Bobcats return 10 letterwinners, including first-team all-MAC choice Katie Mullen, who led the league in blocks.

Bowling Green has 48 points for fourth place, and edged out Kent (40) and Marshall (39), while second-year MAC member Buffalo (14) completes the East Division.

Ball State, which tied Miami and Northern Illinois with 15-3 conference marks last year, recorded eight first-place votes and 72 points, while co-division champion Northern Illinois, under the direction of first-year head coach Todd Kress, received three first-place votes and 65 points. The Cardinals return the top setter in the league in junior Emily Sallee, one of three first-team all-MAC players returning in 1999, while the Huskies counter offensively with Christy Mikesell, who was sixth in the MAC in attack percentage (.312).

Western Michigan is slated for third with 57 points and received the other two first-place votes in the West, and are coming off a 19-13 overall record and an 11-7 mark in the division. The 11 wins are the most league wins in the five years under the helm of coach Cathy George.

The fourth selection in the West Division preseason poll is Eastern Michigan, which tallied 34 points, and was closely followed by Central Michigan, which had 26. Toledo, with 19 points rounds out the West Division poll.

1999 MAC Volleyball Preseason Coaches Poll

East Division (first place votes) 
1. Miami (11) - 89 points 
2. Akron (2) -  69 
3. Ohio - 65 
4. Bowling Green - 48 
5. Kent - 40 
6. Marshall - 39 
7. Buffalo - 14 

West Division 
1. Ball State (8) - 72 
2. Northern Illinois (3) - 65 
3. Western Michigan (2) - 57 
4. Eastern Michigan - 34 
5. Central Michigan - 26 
6. Toledo - 19 

Tournament Winner 
Miami - 7 
Ball State - 3 
Akron - 2 

Note: One coach didn't vote for tournament winner