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Mid-American Conference Volleyball: 2013 Season Review

Now that Volleyball season is over, we take a look back on the year that was.

2013 was a strong season for Mid-American Conference Women's Volleyball. Seven teams finished with an above-.500 overall record, and eventual conference champion Ohio made a run in the Top 25 early in the season. The year also saw Ohio's sophomore setter Abby Gilleland and junior outside hitter Kelly Lamberti along with Toledo's senior outside hitter Lauren Rafdal receive All-American Honorable Mention honors.

The MAC West was loaded last season as it had five teams with winning records and only one team that had less than 17 overall wins. Meanwhile, the East was top-heavy as only two teams were above .500 overall although it has the past two MAC champions in the Bobcats and Bowling Green.

One of the bigger surprises of the season was the play of Ball State. After being picked to finish fourth in the West in the preseason, the Cardinals finished the season atop of the division with the second-best record in the MAC (24-8, 12-4 MAC). They were impressive in MAC play as they beat Ohio in Athens in five sets and swept four West opponents despite falling to Toledo twice. BSU fell in the first round of the MAC Tournament in four sets to Western Michigan although they had five players named to the All-MAC First and Second Teams including sophomore outside hitter Alex Fuelling with her 3.65 kills per set.

Another team that surpassed expectations was the Rockets, a squad that was picked to finish last in the MAC West and ended the season in second place with a record of 19-12 (12-4 MAC), which was third overall in the conference. Along with sweeping the Cardinals, they also beat Bowling Green 3-1 and took Ohio to four sets before falling in five sets to Eastern Michigan in the MAC Tournament's first round. Toledo had five players make the All-MAC First, Second, and Freshman Team including Rafdal with her 3.97 kills per set.

One would be remiss if the season that Ohio had was mentioned as a pleasant surprise in the MAC in 2013. Following being selected to finished second in the East, the Bobcats climbed to No. 18 in the national rankings after sweeps over No. 8 Oregon and No. 21 Western Kentucky before taking the conference crown and falling to No. 21 Michigan State in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. The ‘Cats led the conference with four All-MAC First Team selections and a member on the All-Freshman team as Gilleland earned MAC Player of the Year and Setter of the Year honors. Head coach Ryan Theis was named MAC Coach of the Year for the second time in his career.

The team that possibly underachieved the most in 2013 is Central Michigan. After receiving three first-place votes in the preseason, the Chippewas finished last in the West with the third-most overall losses in the MAC. During conference play, the Chips won only one game against West opponents and finished the season on a six-match losing streak that included three sweeps. Outside hitter Caitlyn McIntyre was the lone player for CMU to earn All-MAC First Team honors with her 3.93 kills per set.

Another team that left much to be desired was Western Michigan, who was picked to win the West and ended the season in fourth place. The Broncos were lost both matches against the Cardinals, the Rockets, and Northern Illinois prior to downing Ball State in four sets in the MAC Tournament.  Eastern Michigan swept the Broncos in the second round, knocking them out of the tournament. But, despite the disappointing year WMU still wound up with three players on the All-MAC First and Second Teams, including MAC Freshman of the Year Ave Stout who had 25 solo blocks and 92 block assists.

Miami is another team that failed to live up to expectations as it was picked to finish third in the MAC East and finished in fifth place with the second-most conference losses in 2013 after dealing with a rash of injuries all season. The RedHawks took both matches against East bottom-feeder Akron but would only get two more MAC wins in 2013 against Eastern Michigan and Kent State. Redshirt sophomore middle blocker Jenny Ingle was fourth in the MAC with a .344 hitting percentage for the ‘Hawks.