The first weekend of the women's volleyball season is in the books, with each of the 12 MAC teams getting a few games under their belts.
In the opening weekend preview, I mentioned that Ohio had the toughest invitational competition in the conference. That to be proved true as the Bobcats dropped all three matches to begin their season. Their most impressive performance came Saturday against No. 7 Illinois, in which Ohio took the second set.
The Bobcats had a chance to make a run at the upset in the third set, playing point for point with the Illini all the way up to 19-19. But Illinois won the third set 25-22 and coasted in the fourth with a 25-18 clincher.
Another tough set of matches await the Bobcats this weekend at the Baymont Invitational in Athens, Ohio, including contests against No. 10 Kentucky and No. 17 Oregon. If the Bobcats don't get a win Saturday against 2-1 Western Carolina, starting the season 0-6 may not be great for their psyche.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Eastern Michigan swept its four matches to become the only undefeated MAC team remaining in the early season. Rachel Iaquaniello was named the Memphis Invitational's Most Outstanding Player with 55 kills on the weekend. The Eagles will defend their unbeaten record tonight (see below).
The team that may have struggled the most in the opening weekend was Toledo. The Rockets managed just a .148 attack percentage (11th in the MAC) while allowing opponents to hit .262 (12th). Some of the troubles could certainly be due to the competition, as they faced a pair of ranked teams -- No. 20 Oregon and No. 24 Ohio State -- and were swept by both. But even in Toledo's five-set win over Houston to open the season, the team still hit just .164.
Junior middle blocker Dakota Harkins led the Rockets in two of three matches over the weekend but had no rhythm against the Ducks, finishing with a negative attack rate for the match.
While the majority of the nonconference slate consists of weekend tournaments, a handful of matches are dabbled into the weekdays. Of the three matches Tuesday, the most interesting appears to be Eastern Michigan hosting Cleveland State at 7 p.m.
Coming off their undefeated weekend, Eastern Michigan will square off with another unbeaten team in Cleveland State, which dropped only one set in three matches at the IPFW Invitational. (Coincidentally, IPFW will host Ball State on Tuesday as well, as some common opponents start to form around the conference.)
If the Eagles want to extend their winning streak to five, Iaquaniello will likely need to perform like she did Saturday as opposed to Sunday. She had a pair of 17-kill matches in wins over Southern Illinois and Arkansas-Little Rock but struggled in the final match against host Memphis. Iaquaniello had eight kills in the match but also seven attack errors and a hitting percentage of .036.
Kristen Baker also did a good job on the Eagles' attack, leading the team in hitting percentage over the weekend at .386. Baker and Iaquaniello could be developing into a potent pair for Eastern Michigan.
The Vikings are led by senior Kara Koch, who tallied 50 kills and 30 digs over the weekend. Junior setter Annie Djukic also played well in Fort Wayne, Ind., with 131 assists over 10 sets.
Ball State at IPFW, 7 p.m.
Green Bay at Northern Illinois, 7 p.m.
- The MAC announced its first players of the week.
- Former Northern Illinois setter Kristin Hoffman was named one of 30 finalists for the NCAA Woman of the Year award.