The MAC needs to deal with its Mastodon problem.
Dating to October 2010, IPFW has won six of seven matches against MAC opponents, including three victories this year. The team has dropped one total set in wins against Kent State, Ball State and Eastern Michigan.
The conference will have two more chances to get a victory over 6-1 IPFW: Central Michigan on Sept. 15 and Toledo on Oct. 16
The Mastodons’ wins over the Golden Flashes and Eagles aren’t quite as noteworthy. They have now won three straight against Kent State and eight in a row versus Eastern Michigan.
No, the biggest concern came from the 25-15, 29-27, 18-25, 25-21 victory over Ball State last Tuesday. Unlike its conference peers, Ball State had actually had IPFW’s number over the years, including a 10-3 all-time record and a four-match winning streak going into last week’s matchup.
For Ball State, the season is already starting to idle. One thing I continue to learn is not to jump to conclusions, but the Cardinals have been in a win-loss pattern ever since the season started and sit at 4-3. Average results and a schedule lacking true top-tier competition is going to make #BackToTheDance that much more difficult.
The Cardinals went 2-1 over the weekend, with sweeps of Georgia State and IUPUI and getting swept by North Texas. Beyond the alternating schedule, it’s been feast or famine for Ball State. No match has made it past the fourth set this season.
Ball State lacks a dominating presence on the attack. Five players have more than 45 kills and seven have a plus-.200 attack percentage. The team is certainly succeeding and failing together. In the weekend wins, the Cardinals hit above .250 and limited their opponents to attack rates under .160. But in the loss to the Mean Green, the Cardinals struggled, hitting just .123 to North Texas’ .231. No one on Ball State reached double-digit kills.
Balance could certainly become a strength for Ball State as the season rolls on. Having multiple strong attackers could be dominant once all the kinks are worked out. If they can succeed in finding ways to win without an offensive leader, the Cardinals will be a tough opponent no matter who is on the other side of the court. But if things don’t smooth out quickly, a MAC Tournament victory will be the only way to achieve the team’s goal.
In brighter news, a blossoming MAC school defeated a Big Ten team with a tradition of success.
Bowling Green upset then-undefeated Indiana 22-25, 25-18, 27-25, 25-20 Saturday. The Falcons pulled out the victory by hitting above .300 in Sets 2 and 4.
On the other hand, this was Bowling Green’s first win of the season and was followed up by a 25-17, 25-22, 25-13 sweep at the hands of Cleveland State -- another team picking on MAC competition, with, like IPFW, wins over Kent State and Eastern Michigan.
I’m still high on the potential of this Bowling Green team in an Eastern Division without a clear No. 2 squad. (Every team in the division has a losing record through the second weekend, some more a product of a difficult schedule than others.) A .171 hitting percentage certainly needs to improve, especially from its top two attackers, Danielle Tonyan and Paige Penrod, who are both hitting under .200.
A somewhat middling slate of midweek games is highlighted by Miami hosting Xavier at 7 p.m.
The RedHawks (1-5) will look to break four-match losing and two-match sweep streaks against the Musketeers (4-3), which will be led by sophomore setter Aubree Smith. She was named to the all-tournament team in the Xavier Invitational over the weekend after recording more than 100 assists in three matches.
If Miami wants to get back in the winning column, finding some help for Meg Riley will be important. She is the only RedHawks’ player recording more than two kills a set.
Christina Menche could be that help. After missing the firstweekend, Menche recorded 22 kills in three matches last weekend. It will be interesting to see if she can take more playing time from her teammates on the front line.
This will also be the RedHawks’ first home match of the season, so perhaps playing in Oxford can improve the team’s fortune.
Oakland at Central Michigan, 7 p.m.
Northern Illinois at UIC
- Akron appears to be serving hot dogs in Ohio State’s wrappers at its home matches.