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Nonrevenue Rundown: Can anyone stop Jenna Hellstrom and Kent State?

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The sprint to the MAC Men’s Soccer Tournament has finally begun in the six-team conference, and after one round all that we know for sure is that you can throw Akron’s inconsistent nonconference play out the window. The footie Zips are still the conference’s best chance at a fall national title, in any sport.

What once looked like an early showdown with championship implications lost its luster as Buffalo hit a rut, and the Bulls couldn’t regain their footing before a 4-0 road defeat at Akron. UB did well last season to play the Zips to a pair of one-goal defeats, and the two teams are likely somewhere between one and four goals apart, but the loss and recent poor form from the Bulls puts the group far behind the eight ball in the season’s home stretch.

In other MAC play, Bowling Green earned a valuable road win, 1-0, over West Virginia, while Northern Illinois also earned a road result, drawing a strong Western Michigan side that’s flown under the radar this year.

Most of the conference’s teams played a nonconference match this week, as well. None won.

Matches of the Week:

Buffalo stays on the road, desperately needing to avoid an 0-2-0 MAC start at West Virginia. A result against Bowling Green is less critical for Western Michigan, but they’re on the road, as well. Akron travels to Northern Illinois.

Women’s Soccer

Kent State isn’t slowing down. An easy road win over the Zips and a tougher home victory over Buffalo have the Flashes at 6-0-0. They haven’t lost since their first match of the year, in August, and swept the conference’s weekly individual awards with offensive dynamo Jenna Hellstrom and goalie Katie Kingsbury.

Ball State, Miami, and Central Michigan all continued their strong play, as well, collectively allowing only a single goal on the weekend. Along with Kent, they’re the only four teams with winning records in MAC play and have the clear inside track on home quarterfinals as we pass the halfway point.

Buffalo and Northern Illinois are next in line at 3-3, but the Bulls, who have lost their three road games by identical 1-0 scores to Miami, Ball State, and Kent, have been without All-MAC wing Julia Benati for two weekends now, and NIU hasn’t impressed much since opening conference play with a 4-0 win over the Chips.

Matches of the Week:

Kent State-CMU, Friday at 6:00. Should be over before the ALCS, and should be a barnburner between Hellstrom and CMU’s Alexis Pelafas. Nothing else on the weekend is even close, but by this time next week we should see much more stratification in the middle of the conference.

Cross Country

Mostly an off-week for the MAC, who sends fully nine teams to next week’s Pre-Nationals meet at Indiana State. The Eastern Michigan women are still nationally-ranked (higher in their poll than Akron Men’s Soccer in theirs, for what it’s worth), and have another chance to impress after the Notre Dame Invitational earlier this month.

Volleyball

Volleyball continues to provide few surprises: Ohio, Miami, Northern Illinois, and Ball State pulled further from the pack this week, the only loss among the four coming in the Huskies’ straight-set win over the Cardinals. Miami’s win streak is up to 13, and NIU’s to 9.

Volleyball has a more robust conference slate than either Men’s or Women’s Soccer, so there’s still plenty of time left, but Akron, Western Michigan, and Buffalo are in danger of falling out of tournament contention, if they haven’t already. Eastern Michigan swung a pair of wins this weekend to build some momentum and keep them in the conversation, while Bowling Green took care of business in should-wins against Akron and Buffalo to move to 3-3 and much safer territory than a week ago.

Matches of the Week:

Doesn’t look like much will change this weekend, either, as Miami and NIU face middling teams from the West and bottom-feeders from the East, respectively. The big one will be Ohio-Ball State on Saturday in a match that will keep one team close to the division leaders and push the other closer to the middle of the conference pack.

Keep an eye, as well, on three 3-3 teams. Toledo has a chance to make a statement with matches against the Bobcats, Kent State the same opportunity against the Cardinals, and then the Rockets and Flashes face each other on Saturday. My money on an upward-mover, though, is Bowling Green, who have two winnable road matches at EMU and CMU. A pair of victories could have them threatening the top four this time next week.

Field Hockey

Miami held up their end of the bargain with a tight win over Longwood and are now just a game back of conference-leading Kent State in a highly stratified conference table: In addition to the Flashes and RedHawks, Ohio sits 2-0, though their wins over Missouri State and CMU didn’t come by such lopsided margins as the conference leaders’.

At the other end, even the three 0-3 teams - Longwood, Missouri State, and CMU - have chances to make the four-team MAC tournament as Ball State is only 1-1.

Matches of the Week:

It’s a busier week for MAC matches than usual, and Kent State-Miami is the frontrunner matchup we’ve been waiting for. Ball State and Ohio will play in a match that will have big tiebreaker implications, and someone will get their first MAC win in CMU-Missouri State.