Look over the results from the first week of MAC play in Volleyball, and there are a handful of regular names the top of the conference. Ohio, Miami, and Northern Illinois all sit 2-0 off the opening weekend.
The Cardinals came into the weekend 4-10, but made the most of home matches against Central and Eastern Michigan, taking a pair of five-setters and jumping to a 2-0 start in conference play. Despite going the distance twice, they’re limiting aces more than any other team in the conference. Ball State isn’t a terribly young team, but could gain valuable experience and lay a foundation for the next few years with a strong run this year. If they’re among the top of the conference halfway through, watch out.
In the East Division, Miami is absolutely on fire, their opening MAC wins the latest in a nine-match winning streak. The RedHawks had a 2-0 match lead in the 2014 MAC Final and at least early on seem poised for a deep run in 2016 behind libero Maeve McDonald, who’s helping Miami to a conference-leading 17 digs a set, keeping points alive and creating extra opportunities for the RedHawks and their .233 hitting percentage.
Key Matches this weekend:
Thursday is highlighted by an early MAC unbeaten matchup in Miami vs Ohio, and the RedHawks get another 2-0 team Friday in Kent State. If the winning streak gets to 11, it will come with sole possession of first in the East.
In the West, Northern Illinois and Ball State both stand a good chance of remaining unbeaten in MAC play and headed for a collision course next weekend.
Extremely quiet week in Cross Country, as a number of high-profile meets are scheduled for early- and mid-October. The Ball State women easily won a dual against IUPUI, while Northern Illinois finished 18th and Central Michigan 26th at Minnesota’s Roy Griak Invitational.
Key Races this weekend:
We’ll have some good measuring sticks next week, as three MAC teams each will be in South Bend and Louisville, and two more in Cedarville, Ohio. Buffalo, who sits in a different region, travels to Bethlehem, PA for an early October race that’s been good to them the last few years.
Kent State slowed the Longwood train with a 3-2 overtime win on Sunday. Combined with an earlier win over Ball State, the Golden Flashes are the first 2-0 team in conference play and share the conference’s best record with Longwood at 6-4. Miami is also riding a two-game winning streak on the week and enjoy by far the highest scoring margin in the conference, thanks in part to a 6-0 rout of Central Michigan featuring a hat trick — if we call them that in field hockey, still learning — from Carla Romagosa.
Key Matches this weekend:
Miami can join Kent State at 2-0 with a Friday win over Missouri State, though the Flashes get a weak Central Michigan team the next day.
Miami keeps rolling in front of goalie Vic Maniaci, who made 12 saves on the weekend en route to two shutouts and MAC Player of the Week honors. She’s got four cleansheets in the last five games and the RedHawks are one of just four teams to get a pair of results on their opening MAC weekend.
Two of the others — Kent State and Ball State — are unsurprising, as the Cardinals enjoyed a home weekend and friendly matchups against Buffalo and Akron, while Kent State had no trouble with the northwest Ohio teams. But Northern Illinois is a surprise with their pair of wins: a 4-0 rout of previously unbeaten Central Michigan and a good 2-1 win over EMU. Taylor Sarver scored twice in the opening 20 minutes and NIU put all eight of their shots on frame in the impressive win over the Chippewas.
Key Matches this weekend:
At 0-2-0, Buffalo, Ohio, and Eastern Michigan are in desperate need of wins. All three are home for the weekend, and based on schedule alone, the Bulls are most likely to claw back up, as Ohio hosts WMU and NIU, and Eastern Ball State and Miami.
Central Michigan rebounded from the 4-0 loss with a good 2-1 win over Western Michigan and could firmly place themselves in the MAC’s top tier with wins over Miami and Ball State, while NIU at Kent State Friday afternoon could be a doozie.
The immediate few weeks before MAC play begins are usually light, and this year is no different. Only Buffalo and Western Michigan played multiple games this weekend, each with mixed results.
UB’s 2-1 win over St. Bonaventure and 3-0 loss to Binghamton should swing more to the “negative” direction, as the Bulls looked out of sorts even in the win and punchless until far too late in the loss. They have only one match remaining before a showdown with Akron.
The Broncos took a loss to Detroit, but sandwiched it between wins over Michigan and Drake. It’s been easy before the last week to talk up Buffalo, but WMU is in better form right now, and West Virginia still hasn’t lost since August with a win over UNC-Greensboro. Akron drew VCU Tuesday evening
Key Matches this week:
Unless you’re looking for a specific adjustment or return to form before MAC play — hello, fellow Bulls fans — watch Women’s Soccer instead. It’s a handful of nonconference games at a time when everyone’s gearing up for what should be a high-intensity and uber-competitive conference race.