With volleyball season rapidly approaching, it's time to unveil picks and predictions for all 12 MAC teams as there are still questions to be answered in the waning summer months. Can Western Michigan repeat despite losing arguably its best player to graduation? Will Ohio continue its reign atop the East? What can Akron and Buffalo expect with their first-year head coaches?
2014 Record: 8-23 (2-14 MAC)
Coach: Tom Hanna (1st year)
Key Players: setter Karley Kusan, outside hitter Julia Smagacz, outside hitter Anna Wenger
Projected Finish: 6th in the East
The offense for the 2014 Zips couldn't have been much worse as Akron had a hitting percentage of .144, compared to their opponents' percentage of .221. With Hanna (who took Marist to back-to-back MAC regular season titles) at the helm, things are looking up for the program but it faces a tough MAC slate as three consecutive matches early on against the East top three teams from a season ago (at Miami, Ohio, Kent State) and consecutive match-ups against Northern Illinois (1st in the West in 2014) and defending MAC champion Western Michigan looks to put a damper on Hanna's debut season.
2014 Record: 7-21 (4-12 MAC)
Coach: Danijela Tomic (5th year)
Key Players: defensive specialist Madeline Garda, outside hitter Nicole Slimko, outside hitter Jelena Sunjic
Projected Finish: 5th in the MAC East
The Falcons will be returning their two top scorers from 2014 in Sunjic (who was named First Team All-MAC with 3.24 kills per set) and Slimko, but lose 5.36 points per set with the departures of Kelsey Bates and Paige O'Connor. With a non-conference schedule that features Indiana, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, and Pitt in addition to their MAC schedule (including road matches against WMU and Ball State), it'll be tough for Bowling Green to finish higher than fifth in the East.
2014 Record: 16-15 (6-10 MAC)
Coach: Blair Brown Lipsitz (1st year)
Key Players: middle blocker Amber Hatchett, middle blocker Akeila Lain, outside hitter Megan Lipski
Projected Finish: 4th in the MAC East
Despite losing an All-MAC First Teamer in Tahleia Bishop, the Bulls are expecting a big season in 2015 as they return four of their top five scorers from last season. However, having a first time head coach in Lipsitz and a schedule that includes Penn State, Washington, Ole Miss, Syracuse, and a four-match stretch against Kent State, Ohio, WMU, and NIU, it's hard to see Buffalo finishing any higher than fourth in the East.
2014 Record: 17-14 (8-8 MAC)
Key Players: outside hitter Kelsey Bittinger, outside hitter Kelly Hutchison, middle blocker Bridget Wilhelm
Coach: Don Gromala (4th year)
Projected Finish: 3rd in the MAC East
The Golden Flashes are looking for a breakout season this year as they bring back three of their top five scorers from 2014 as well as MAC All-Freshman Team honoree libero Challen Geraghty, even though losing Tinuke Aderemi-Ibitola and Liz Reikow (both Second Team) will hurt the team early on. Non-conference match-ups against Maryland, Georgetown, and Wisconsin will be early tests for Kent State, and three consecutive matches against the three top MAC West teams in 2014 (BSU, at NIU, at WMU) will be indicators of if this will be the year the team breaks through in the East.
2014 Record: 21-10 (12-4 MAC)
Key Players: middle blocker Paige Hill, middle blocker Jenny Ingle, outside hitter Olivia Rusek
Coach: Carolyn Condit (32nd year)
Projected Finish: 2nd in the MAC East
The RedHawks finished their 2014 campaign one set shy of its first MAC Tournament title since 2008, and are loading up for another deep run in the tournament by returning Hill (All-MAC First Team), Ingle (All-MAC Second Team), and Rusek (All-Freshman Team). However, the team hasn't beaten Ohio since 2010 and losing a do-everything First Teamer in Meg Riley is going to hurt Miami in a 2015 slate of matches featuring Illinois, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Michigan State, and road matches against NIU and BSU.
2014 Record: 23-6 (16-0 MAC)
Key Players: middle blocker Karin Bull, setter Abby Gilleland, defensive specialist Meredith Ashy
Coach: Deane Webb (2nd year)
Projected Finish: 1st in the MAC East
The Bobcats continue to stay loaded as they bring back a MAC Player of the Year in Gilleland, a MAC Defensive Player of the Year in Ashy, First Teamer Bull, and sophomore outside hitter Jaime Kosiorek, an All-Freshman Team honoree. Losing a First Team scorer in Kelly Lamberti will hurt early on in the season when Ohio takes on Purdue, Kentucky, LSU, Michigan, and Louisville, the team is primed for another first place finish in the East Division despite a three-match stretch on the road against WMU, NIU, and Miami.
2014 Record: 17-13 (11-5 MAC)
Key Players: middle blocker Kelly Hopkins, outside hitter Sabrina Mangapora, setter Jenna Spadafora
Coach: Steve Shondell (6th year)
Projected Finish: 1st in the MAC West
The Cardinals are looking to have another strong season in 2015 as they bring back two MAC First Teamers in Hopkins and Spadafora as well as Mangapora, who took home Second Team and All-Freshman Team honors last season. The Cards will definitely be challenged in the West, however, with their leading scorer in 2014 Hayley Benson leaving and a schedule that features Notre Dame, Purdue, and a three-match MAC stand at Ohio, at Kent State, and a home match against Miami.
2014 Record: 10-18 (5-11 MAC)
Key Players: outside hitter Jordan Bueter, defensive specialist Kristen Reenders, middle blocker Angelique White
Coach: Erik Olson (13th year)
Projected Finish: 4th in the MAC West
Despite losing an All-MAC First Team scorer in Kaitlyn McIntyre, the Chippewas are poised to improve on last season's record as they bring back Bueter and White, who combined for over five kills per set in 2014, as well as Reenders, who is one of the MAC's better defensive players with 4.66 digs per set. The Chips schedule is pretty favorable too, as they don't have to take on the top East teams in back-to-back matches and host WMU and NIU near the end of the season.
2014 Record: 18-13 (9-7 MAC);
Key Players: middle blocker Katie Krasowski, outside hitter Stacey Perinar, defensive specialist Corynne Smith
Coach: Kimi Olson (1st year)
Projected Finish: 5th in the MAC West
Debuting a new coach and losing two of their three 2014 All-MAC honorees might be too much of a burden to handle in 2015 as they try to improve an offense that had an attack percentage of .184 a season ago. The good news for Eastern Michigan is that its schedule doesn't get rough until the tail end of the season, with back-to-backs against NIU and WMU as well as at Kent State and at Ball State.
2014 Record: 21-10 (14-2 MAC)
Key Players: setter Alexis Gonzalez, outside hitter Mary Grace Kelly, middle blocker Jenna Radtke
Coach: Ray Gooden (14th year)
Projected Finish: 3rd in the MAC West
The Huskies will have to find some more scorers to fill the place of MAC First Teamer Mackenzie Roddy, who accounted for over 28% of the team's points in 2014, but they still have a solid core with Gonzalez and Radtke (both First Team honorees) along with Kelly, who had the third most points on the team last season. With matches like Ohio State, Florida State, Kentucky, Alabama plus matches against Kent State, Ohio, Ball State, and WMU to close out the season, NIU might not be able to repeat as regular season MAC West champions in 2015.
2014 Record: 1-28 (0-16 MAC)
Key Players: setter Alex Hines, middle blocker Rachel Vidourek
Coach: Greg Smith (7th year)
Projected Finish: 6th in the MAC West
There's nowhere to go but up for a team that hit .136 and was outblocked 180.5-240.5 in 2014, as the Rockets were. Despite having a strong setter-hitter tandem in Hines and Vidourek, Toledo's MAC slate is brutal with a pair of four-match stands against CMU, EMU, NIU, and WMU.
2014 Record: 22-14 (9-7 MAC)
Key Players: outside hitter Alysia Baznik, middle blocker Olivia Kofie, middle blocker Sydney LeMay
Coach: Colleen Munson (12th year)
Projected Finish: 2nd in the MAC West
Coming off of their great run in the MAC Tournament last season, the Broncos are looking to repeat as they are bring back three of their top four scorers from 2014 in Baznik, Kofie, and LeMay. However, losing one of the MAC's top setters in Lexie Pawlik will definitely affect the offense as it faces a tough non-conference schedule with Arizona State, Michigan, South Carolina, and Ohio State.