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2021 Mid-American Conference Spring Sports Report: Week of Feb. 22

James H. Jimenez

As the snow starts to part way for warmer climes, so too have the sports started to re-emerge from their slumbers.

Counting men’s and women’s divisions, over 15 sports are back in play (including baseball and softball, which won’t be recorded in this report.) There have been a lot of great winter and spring sports action up to this point, and we’re excited to see where the rest of it goes!

As of publication, no track and field or men’s/women’s golf information was available, so this week, we’ll have to go without both of those sports.

Without further ado, the news:


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: Savannah Matthews, sophomore, Kent State: Averaged 5.36 points, 4.91 kills and 4.45 digs per set in three matches of play vs. EMU and Toledo, including a 20-20 digs/kills performance vs. EMU.
  • Defensive: Julia Walz, junior, Bowling Green: 38 digs vs. Ohio (tying career high,) with four aces.
  • Setter: Alex Haffner, redshirt junior, Kent State: Averaged 11.27 assists (40 total) and 2.91 digs per set in three matches, including two wins against Toledo.

The MAC West honorees include:

  • Offensive: Kaitlin Bell, sophomore, Northern Illinois: Averaged 4.0 kills per set in two clean sweeps of Ball State, tying a career-high 16 kills in Thursday’s game. Also set a career-high for blocks (5.)
  • Defensive: Kennedy Wallace, senior, Northern Illinois: Totaled 20 blocks and eight kills in NIU’s clean sweep of Ball State.
  • Setter: Grace Balensiefer, junior, Northern Illinois: Totaled 79 assists, 19 digs and four blocks in two clean sweeps of Ball State.

BGSU still tops both the MAC and East division with an undefeated 9-0 mark after playing in one match this week. Kent State (8-1) and Ohio (4-2) trail behind in-division, but kept pace with two wins each. Akron (3-7) and Buffalo (0-10) still remain at the bottom.

The race in the West is closer, with WMU (7-3) up top, followed by rival CMU and Ball State (tied for second at 5-5), the latter of which has suffered four-straight defeats. NIU (4-6) rises from the basement with three-straight wins, now sitting behind EMU (3-4) and just in front of Toledo (2-6.)


Swimming and Diving

The men’s division awarded two awards this week, while the women’s side offered only one award for performances.

This week’s men’s honorees include:

  • Swimmer: Owen Chaye, sophomore, Ball State: Won in all three entered events, with individual wins in the 50m (21.40) and 100m (46.77) and a win as anchor in the 400m freestyle relay (3:26.13,) which set a facility record.
  • Diver: Issac Hunter, freshman, Ball State: Scored personal bests in two victories vs. SIU-Edwardsville, with a 285.15 in the one-meter boards and 302.12 in the three-meter boards.

This week’s honoree in the women’s division is Eastern Michigan senior Bethany Berger, who set two career-best performances on the boards over the weekend, with a 310.30 on the one-meter (second-place) and 329.50 in the three-meter, picking up her seventh victory en route.


Tennis

Tennis awards one award for a singles player and another for doubles teams. One athlete can be named for two awards, when the situation calls for it, though it’s pretty rare.

For the first time in three weeks, non-WMU players picked up tennis honors in the men’s division.

This week’s men’s honorees include:

  • Singles: Oliver Valentinsson, sophomore, Northern Illinois: Valentinsson scored a pair of wins to secure points for NIU vs. Marquette (6-1, 6-4) and Drake (1-6, 6-4, 6-2), improving to 6-1 as a singles player.
  • Doubles: Mikael Vollback and Bor Schweiger Muzar, Northern Illinois: Vollback and Muzar won 6-4 over Drake, and led over Marquette before the match was called due to a doubles point being decided, improving to 4-1 as a duo.

NIU jumps back into the driver’s seat at an undefeated 7-0, with 8-1 WMU just behind them. Every other team has only one loss on the schedule at present, with only Binghampton yet to play.

This week’s women’s honorees include:

  • Singles: Brindtha Ramasamy, junior, Miami: The native Ontarian captured a 2-6, 6-1, 6-1 win against Xavier in the no. 1 singles match, earning yet another honorific this season.
  • Doubles: Maria Polishchuk and Livia Lukacz, Ball State: The Russian/Hungarian twosome picked up a decisive 6-1 victory in no. 1 doubles over Youngstown State, improving to 4-2 this season.

Buffalo (2-0) and WMU (5-0) still remain undefeated, with Ball State (5-2) jumping up the table on the strength of three-straight wins. Miami (4-3), Toledo (2-2) and Bowling Green (1-2) make up the middle of the table, with EMU (2-4) and NIU (0-3) at the bottom.


Track and Field

Not available as of publication


Gymnastics

As per tradition, one all-around gymnast and one specialist were named as weekly honorees after another week of gym action.

This week’s honorees include:

  • Gymnast: Tara Kofmehl, junior, Northern Illinois: Kofmehl earns her second-straight GOTW award, winning three individual events and creating five more season-or-career best marks in the process. Her 39.500 all-around was a personal best, as was her 9.875 on uneven bars and her 9.925 on the floor exercise, while she surpassed or matched season-highs on the vault and balance beam.
  • Specialist: Jade Brown, senior, Kent State: Brown also set several personal bests in weekend meets, including a 9.9 on the uneven bars and a 9.925 floor exercise to win both individual events vs. WMU.

Ball State (11-0, 1-0 MAC) is (still) the runaway leader in the MAC standings, with WMU (4-2) rocketing up the charts with more conference games in play. EMU jumps Kent State (6-4, 4-2 MAC) jumps Kent State (4-2, 3-2 MAC) for third, while NIU (2-5, 2-2 MAC) stands above a team with a better overall record in CMU (2-3) on the strength of conference record. BGSU (0-6) has yet to win a meet.


Wrestling

The postseason tournament for wrestling begins on Feb. 26 (this Friday), and will be hosted by Rider University in Trenton, New Jersey. There will be no fans in attendance due to New Jersey’s COVID policies, per the conference.

The conference announced its weight-class seedings via press release on Tuesday, and the full list can be found at this link. Rider University Athletics and ESPN+ will be streaming the postseason meet on Feb. 26 and 27.


Golf

Not available as of publication


Soccer

We have our first players of the week in men’s soccer, as the award was split in twain for the first week of action.

This week’s honorees include:

  • Mike Melaragni, junior, Western Michigan: Melaragni was pivotal to WMU’s season-opening win over Butler University, scoring both of WMU’s goals in the 2-nil victory.
  • Chris Sullivan, senior, Bowling Green: Sullivan tallied on all three of BGSU’s goals, assisting two in the 13th and 83rd minutes, and scoring a game-tying goal around the 60’ mark.

Very early table returns show BGSU and SIU-Edwardsville up top at 2-0, with WMU at 1-0 and NIU at 0-2-1. Akron and West Virginia are yet to kick off.


Lacrosse

Robert Morris (2-0), CMU (1-1) and Kent State (0-1) are the only teams in action in lacrosse, but the conference still rewarded two players with honors this week.

This week’s honorees include:

  • Offensive: Audrey Whiteside, sophomore, Central Michigan: Totaled five points (four goals, one assist) in season-opening win against Marquette.
  • Defensive: Sierra Savage, sophomore, Central Michigan: Eight saves (six in the second half), four ground balls and a forced turnover to help a comeback effort in CMU’s 11-10 victory over Xavier.