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2021 Mid-American Conference Spring Sports Report: Week of Feb. 8

Another week, another sport, as golf has re-emerged Down South to add to the MAC sports schedule!

We’re in the second week of February, and slowly, more sports are easing back into official play all across the Mid-American Conference!

This week, it’s golf which makes its triumphant return to the MAC sporting scene, with out-of-conference tournaments underway in the southern states. We’ll hit on that more below, but so far, at least two teams have gone back into play.

That takes it up to seven sports now up and running, including volleyball (W), tennis (M/W), track-and-field (M/W), swimming and diving (M/W), gymnastics (W), golf (M/W) and wrestling (M.)

Here’s the rest of the spring sports report for this week:


Volleyball

As always, six players were named with weekly honors, with one offensive player, one defensive player and one setter for each division named to the weekly list.

The MAC East honorees include:

  • Offensive: Savanna Matthews, sophomore, Kent State: Outside hitter Matthews picks up her first OPOTW of the season thanks in part to a .408 hitting percentage (including a career-best .520 on Thursday) and picking up 28 total kills vs. Buffalo (4.67 per set.)
  • Defensive: Sam Steele, freshman, Ohio: Bobcats libero Steele once again picks up DPOTW honors after an impressive set of games vs. Akron, leading the team with 57 digs on the weekend and a .937 reception percentage, with only four errors on 63 attempts.
  • Setter: Alex Haffner, redshirt junior, Kent State: Statistically the best setter in the MAC through three weeks, Haffer once again picked up SOTW honors with 10.33 assists and 2.33 digs per game on average vs. Buffalo.

The MAC West honorees include:

  • Offensive: Rachel Bontrager, senior, Western Michigan: Bontrager, WMU’s outside hitter, picks up her second honorific of the 2021 season on the back of a 32 kill, 21 dig, two block, .406 hitting percentage performance against in-state rival Eastern Michigan in a weekend sweep.
  • Defensive: Maggie Hueber, sophomore, Ball State: Hueber earns her first honorific of the season at the libero spot, averaging 7 kills per set against Toledo, with a career-high in kills (35) in Thursday’s loss and a career-high in aces (four) in Friday’s victory. Hueber also had 11 assists and a .932 reception percentage on the weekend.
  • Setter: Logan Case, freshman, Western Michigan: The freshman setter finds hersely in SOTW territory after a weekend which saw her pick up 92 assists vs. EMU over the weekend, for a staggering 13.14 assists per set average. Case also picked up four kills, three service aces and two blocks.

Bowling Green (6-0, 4-0 MAC) remains atop the MAC East (and MAC overall) after another clean weekend sweep. The only other undefeated MAC team, Kent State (4-0) resides in second place in the East division. Traditional rivals Miami and Ohio sit with .500 records in the middle of the East, with Miami (3-3) getting the edge for more overall games than Ohio (2-2.) Akron (2-4) and Buffalo (0-6) establish the bottom.

In the West, Ball State stays on top with a 5-1 record. WMU maintains its pace with a 4-2 record, while preseason favorite CMU has unexpectedly struggled in the early going and sit at 3-3. Toledo (2-4), NIU (1-5) and EMU (0-2) are at the bottom of the division.


Swimming and Diving

Once again, the honorifics for swimming and diving have changed around, with only one honoree in the men’s side, while the women announce the traditional two awards.

For the men, it was senior swimmer Spencer Klinsky, of Miami, picking up SOTW honors. Klinsky, the pride of Brentwood, Tennessee, picked up three first-place performances, grabbing gold in the 100 backstroke (49.49) and 100 fly (48.48), as well as the 400m medley relay, where he was third leg.

Other nominees for the honor included South African international Riccardo di Domenico (Evansville.)

One swimmer and one diver picked up honors for the women, including:

  • Swimmer: Antonia Naccarella, junior, Buffalo: Naccarella closed out UB’s victory over Akron with four podium finishes, picking up second in the 200 freestyle (1:53.70) and first in the 50 freestyle (23.12), 100 freestyle (50.85) and 400 relay as the anchor leg, edging out the second-place team by six-tenths of a second.
  • Diver: Bethany Berger, senior, Eastern Michigan: Ohio native Berger picks up her second-straight DOTW honor, posting a 288.75 in one-meter boards and 302.93 in three-meter boards to win both events vs. Oakland University.

Other nominees included: Paige Kalil (Akron); Victoria Franz (Buffalo); Nicole Meier (Miami); Ali Staver (Eastern Michigan); and Kennedy Lovell (Toledo).


Tennis

We approach the third week of tennis for both sides, as most MAC members are still in the midst of their out-of-conference schedules.

The men’s singles and doubles squads of the week for Week 3 are swept by WMU, the second such time this season one school has dominated the list as such.

This week, honorees on the men’s side include:

  • Singles: Jannik Opitz, senior, Western Michigan: Opitz, of Hildeshiem, Germany, established himself as perhaps the best no. 1 option in MTEN, continuing his undefeated streak this week against DePaul to become 4-0 in 2021. He needs six more wins to be the all-time singles wins leader in conference history, which he’s on pace to do within a few weeks.
  • Doubles: Opitz and Zach Fevri, Western Michigan: Opitz and teammate Fevri, of Guelph, Ontario, picked up yet another doubles victory for the Broncos against DePaul’s no. 1 doubles team, by a score of 7-5, to put WMU at 5-0. The pair can tie the WMU program-high for doubles wins with five more victories.

Other nominees include: Vince Orlando (Ball State); Bor Schweiger Muzar (NIU); Krzysztof Wetoszka (Toledo); and Cole Schoults/Wetozka (Toledo).

Three of the four MAC teams in play are undefeated, with NIU and WMU both at 5-0, sandwiching Toledo (1-0.) Of the remaining teams, only Ball State (4-1) has seen the court, with Binghamption and Buffalo yet to log results.

The women’s honorees include:

  • Singles: Lindsey Zieglar, sophomore, Western Michigan: Zieglar improved to 3-0 as a singles player, with a 2-0 record at no. 1 option against Valpariso, winning in two 6-4 sets to help WMU sweep the meet.
  • Doubles: Luisa Pelayo and Grace Whitney, Eastern Michigan: The redshirt juniors picked up their first two victories as a doubles option vs. Dayton and Xavier over the weekend, winning 6-2 and 6-4, respectively.

Other nominees include: Peyalo (Eastern Michigan); Sofia Zaprianov (Miami); Gabriella Akopyan (Buffalo); Kristina Tirapolsky/Femke Tjon-A-Joe (Western Michigan); and Akopyon/Nikoleta Antoniou-Karademitrou (Buffalo.)

Buffalo returned to play for the MAC this week, winning its only meet, and is now top of the table. WMU sits in second with a 3-0 record, while Toledo (1-1) edges out EMU and Miami (2-2) for the third spot between the .500 teams. Ball State (1-2) and NIU (0-3) make up the remainder of active teams. BGSU has yet to record results.


Track and Field

Track and field enters its second week, and the list of nominees for the award is extremely long, as a variety of athletes were all deserving of recognition.

This week’s honorees for the men include:

  • Track: Baldvin Magnusson, junior, Eastern Michigan: Icelandic national Magnusson set his country’s record for the 3000m, logging a 7:53.92 in the event. The time is also the second-best in program history, behind only former NCAA champion Boaz Cheboiyo, and the eighth-best in the country as of this week.
  • Field: Brandon Burke, senior, Buffalo: Burke won the high jump at the Akron Invitational, with a 2.19m (seven-foot, two-and-a-quarter inches) jump, good for the best distance in the MAC, and tied for sixth in the NCAA.

Other nominees include: Jake Wickey (Kent State); Brandon Hockbein (Akron); William Hilbert (Buffalo); and Zarik Brown (Akron)

For the women’s honorees, names include:

  • Track: Kailee Perry, sophomore, Bowling Green: Perry won both events she participated in at the Jack Skoog Invitational, with a converted personal best time of 4:50.90 in the one-mile race (best in the MAC) and a time of 2:16.13 in the 800m.
  • Field: Quiara Wheeler, senior, Central Michigan: Wheeler re-established her own personal (and program) record in the weight throw, with a 21.51 meter toss in the Jack Skoog Invitational. The toss, which broke her previous career-best 20.74 meter toss in the season opener, is also the conference-best mark, and is sixth-best in the NCAA.

Other nominees include: Taylor Eaton (Western Michigan); Scilla Benussi (Buffalo); Zaresha Neal (Bowling Green); Grace Tennant (Kent State); Jazmyn Smith (NIU); Rebecca McNamee (NIU); Priscilla Faa (Buffalo); Alysee Wade (Eastern Michigan); Emily Vining (Toledo); Kyra Keurentjes (Akron); and Jahnetta Jones (NIU.)


Gymnastics

After a gap week, gymnastics returned to the scene, and there are plenty of names which found themselves in consideration for honors. As per usual, one gymnast and one specialist were awarded with honorifics.

This week’s names include:

  • Gymnast: Payton Murphy, sophomore, Western Michigan: Murphy won the all-around in the Eagle Invitational, with a 39.325 score. The score was a personal best, and second-best in WMU history, and included career-high scores on the vault (9.9) and floor (9.875.)
  • Specialist: Hannah Demers, sophomore, Central Michigan: won the bars vs. BGSU with a 9.925 score, which tabulates as best in the MAC, and 12th in the NCAA. Also finished second in the vault, with a 9.825.

Other nominees include: Sierra Demarinis (Central Michigan); Abby Fletcher (Kent State); Jada Rondeau (Eastern Michigan); Arden Hudson (Ball State); Megan Teter (Ball State); Alexandra Fochler (Bowling Green); Samantha Henry (Kent State); Caitlin Setler (Eastern Michigan); and Stacie Harrison (Western Michigan.)

Kent State (3-0) assumes control of the standings with their victory this week, with Eastern Michigan, the previous leader, falling to fourth at 4-2. NIU (2-2, 2-0 MAC) and Ball State (4-0, 1-0 MAC) are second and third, respectively. EMU (4-2, 2-1) is the only team remaining with a winning record, with CMU and WMU (1-2) and BGSU (0-4) rounding out the standings.


Wrestling

We’ve entered the sixth week of wrestling season, and new MAC member Lock Haven has finally been cleared to participate in conference activities, releasing a statement saying they were “excited to help each wrestler prepare to their fullest as we begin training for the conference tournament” on Thursday afternoon. The MAC tournament and NCAA tournaments are expected to be held later this month.

This week, the wrestler of the week honor has been split between two student-athletes, a departure from the usual one award handed out.

The honorees include:

  • Ethan Laird, senior, Rider: The 285 lb. heavyweight scored a win over fifth-ranked heavyweight Jordan Wood, of Lehigh, in last week’s action to retain a perfect 5-0 record, scoring a takedown with 16 seconds remaining to clinch both the match and meet win for Rider.
  • Dresden Simon, senior, Central Michigan: The 141 lb. wrestler from Dansville, Michigan, went 3-0 in three different meets over the week, elevating him to #12 in the FloWrestling rankings, posting one pin and two technical falls against Cleveland State, Edinboro and Buffalo. The wins vs. CSU and Edinboro were by 16-1 scores, while the Buffalo win was against the #23 ranked Derek Spann.

Mizzou stands atop the standings once again, still sitting at 10-0 (9-0 MAC.) Rider (3-1, 2-0 MAC) is second, holding up NIU (6-3, 5-2 MAC) in third. CMU holds the edge over Buffalo in the mid-table, with SIU-Edwardsville only logging one meet. Lock Haven, Ohio and George Mason have yet to engage this season.


Golf

As stated at the start, golf has kicked back into gear, with several teams engaging in activity. We’ll provide more thorough updates as they come in, as golf news this week was very sparse.

The NIU women scored a tournament victory for the first time since the 2018 Redbird Invitational, thanks to an explosive performance in the Mid-American Challenge in Lakewood, Florida. Fellow MAC members Akron (t-3), Central Michigan (5th), Ball State (7th), Toledo (8th), Bowling Green (9th) and Ohio (10th) also participated in the event.

For the men’s side, Ball State senior Tyler Green was given men’s golfer of the week honors after posting a 3-0 record as the no. 2 single option in the Earl Yestingmeier Match Play in Date City, Florida.