We’re just days away from the first MAC Championships of the year, with the conference’s Cross Country teams coming together at Kent State for their year end meet, though the Eastern Michigan women in particular are in line to make some noise at nationals, and Women’s Soccer squads are just a single match away from the conference tournament, with quarterfinals Sunday hosted by the top four seeds.
Eastern Michigan is the reigning conference champion in both the Men’s and Women’s races and has to be considered the favorite in both again this year. The EMU Women have strung together a number of strong performances in big races this year and have climbed to 14th in the nation in the USA Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association poll, while the Men are 27th in their edition. Both are the only MAC teams receiving votes.
The regional rankings are unchanged since last week’s post, but behind EMU’s 2nd (women) and 3rd-place (men) spots in the Great Lakes region, both Miami teams are ranked, as are the Ohio men and Toledo women. Both Buffalo groups are ranked in the Northeast Region.
I’ll have more in the way of a championship preview later this week.
Upset city this weekend! Central Michigan went 0-1-1, the loss coming to Akron. Miami’s Vic Maniaci gameplan finally faltered as the RedHawks failed to score a goal in a pair of losses to Kent State and Ohio. Kent State couldn’t capitalize on the Thursday win, losing Sunday to Ball State. Except Ball State ALSO lost on Thursday, to Ohio as well.
With my attention on all of those matches, Western Michigan burned down the barns with a pair of 4-3 wins. Alyssa Burke (3), Olivia Vollmers, and Liz Abro all had multiple goals on the weekend for the Broncos.
It really seemed last week like the top four teams had built a solid cushion on the conference’s top tier. WMU, though, could jump both Miami and Central Michigan with the right results tomorrow and claim a home quarterfinal. The standings and final matchups:
- Ball State, 8-1-1, 25 points, vs Miami
- Kent State, 7-1-2, 23 points, at Ohio
- Central Michigan, 5-2-3, 18 points, at Eastern Michigan
- Miami, 5-3-2, 17 points, at Ball State
- Western Michigan, 5-4-1, 16 points, vs Northern Illinois
- Eastern Michigan, 4-4-2, 14 points, vs Central Michigan
- Buffalo, 3-4-3, 12 points, vs Akron
- Northern Illinois, 3-5-2, 11 points, at Western Michigan
- Bowling Green, 3-6-1, 10 points, vs Toledo
- Ohio, 3-7-0, 9 points, vs Kent State
- Toledo, 2-7-1, 7 points, at Bowling Green
- Akron, 1-5-4, 7 points, at Buffalo
Note just how many matchups there are between teams in line for a home quarterfinal, those facing a roadtrip on Sunday, and those currently set to miss the postseason. Toledo could do Northern Illinois, who faces a tough trip to Kalamazoo, a favor by beating Bowling Green and keeping the Falcons out. WMU stands a great chance at jumping Miami, considering the RedHawks travel to Muncie. A Central Michigan road win could open the door for Buffalo to jump Eastern and set up a rematch of this past Sunday’s 1-1 draw in which UB outplayed the Chips for 89 minutes but gave up a late equalizer.
Once it’s all settled Thursday, I’ll have a tournament preview on Friday.
Still two conference matches to go in Men’s Soccer, spread over two weekends, but a big upset has shaken up what looked last week like a fairly predictable home stretch. Joey Piatczyc scored 39 seconds into West Virginia’s match against Akron, and Jad Arslan added two in the second half in a 3-1 win over the Zips that gives the Mountaineers new postseason hope after two home losses in MAC play.
Elsewhere, Russell Cicerone headed in an Alec Fisher cross in the 90th minute to salvage a home draw for Buffalo against Western Michigan. Cicerone’s three career goals against the Broncos have all come in the 89th minute or later to pull UB even or win the match. Bismark Agyeman scored his first of the season for Bowling Green in a road win for the Falcons over NIU.
The result right now? Bowling Green’s in first, ahead of Akron, and Buffalo, Western Michigan, and West Virginia are separated by just a single point for the 3-5 spots.
Matches of the Week
West Virginia-Western Michigan is suddenly critically important for both teams, especially with Buffalo getting last-place NIU at home. A draw keeps things muddied, while a clean result puts the loser in a tough spot on the road for their MAC finale. Akron-Bowling Green won’t move either team out of the MAC Tournament, but anything other than a Zips win could set the conference up for a surprise regular-season champion.
It’s Northern Illinois-Miami week! Each team has a single match to open the weekend before the two programs, who are running away from the MAC with twin double-digit win streaks, will face off in Oxford on Saturday. Further down the standings, there are logjams at 5-5 and 3-7 in MAC play.
With only the Huskies and RedHawks claiming two wins, the intrigue last week came at the fringe of the MAC Tournament, where Western Michigan had a predictably rough weekend against Kent State and Ohio, and neither CMU nor EMU were able to seep Akron and Buffalo. All three Michigan schools now sit 3-7. Only two will make the postseason.
Matches of the Week
Miami-NIU on Saturday. Someone has to lose, but it’s gonna be a blast.
Longwood got the result they needed — a Miami win over Ball State — to stay in contention for the four-team MAC Tournament. If the RedHawks can help out again with a win over 2-3 Ohio, Longwood would only need a victory over 1-4 Missouri State to get a postseason bid thanks to their regular-season win over the Bobcats. Ball State is almost certainly in barring a stunning upset loss to winless-in-the-MAC Central Michigan.
Kent State is all wrapped up for the year and has the #1 seed locked. An Ohio win over Miami would give the Bobcats the #2 seed and set up a rematch between the rivals in the MAC Tournament.
Match of the Week
Sure, Longwood-Missouri State needs to go the Lancers’ way, but Miami-Ohio is the match that will most likely set the MAC Tournament field. Miami of course only has an overtime loss to 6-0 Kent State on their debits, while Ohio has lost three in a row.