Volleyball Broncos picked to repeat as division champ
Aug. 16, 2001
KALAMAZOO -- WMU's volleyball team is the preseason favorite to win the MAC West Division for the first time since the Mid-American Conference went to the two-division format. Last season, the Broncos won both the MAC regular season and tournament titles, compiling an overall record of 25-5 for their second consecutive 25-win season.
Head coaches from the league's 13 teams voted earlier this week, choosing WMU to edge Ball State for the West Division title and Bowling Green to win the East.
While the Broncos were picked to finish ahead of Ball State in regular season, the Cardinals were favored in voting by the coaches to win the MAC tournament at the end of the season. The tournament winner receives the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. In polling for the tournament champion, Ball State received seven votes, WMU received four, and Akron and Kent State garnered one vote each.
In the MAC coaches poll for regular season, WMU received 71 votes to win the West. Ball State received 67, and the league's other perennial volleyball power, Northern Illinois, got 55 votes. The Broncos received eight first-place votes, while the Cardinals garnered the remaining five. WMU will attempt to be the first team to win back-to-back MAC championships since 1995, when Ball State won its fourth straight league title.
The Broncos welcome back five starters from the 2000 campaign, led by last year's regular season and tournament MVP Zakiya Pope. The senior middle blocker paced the Broncos with 379 kills and hit .353, which was third in the league. Also returning for WMU are a pair of All-MAC performers in Ashley Ritter and M'Myia McQuirter. Ritter, a second team All-MAC choice, took over the setting duties part way into the year and guided the Broncos to a league-high .262 hitting percentage while passing out 992 assists. McQuirter was a force on the outside and slammed down 365 kills and hit .266. Also returning are frequent starters Cindy Kizer, a junior defensive specialist, and junior middle blocker Angela Sillmon. Junior Amanda Fry is expected to switch from middle to outside hitter this season. The Broncos lost four seniors to graduation from last year's championship squad. Two of them, Alberta Griffin and Monyka Paul, earned all-league or all-tournament honors at outside hitter.
Ball State, like WMU, returns five starters from last year's 25-win season but that one starter the Cardinals do have to replace is a big one. BSU does have three All-MAC performers back in Megan Hammons (first team), Susie Meshberger (first team) and Julie Zylka (second team), but head coach Randy Litchfield will miss the team's setter the last four seasons Emily Sallee, who graduated as the league's all-time leader in assists (6,408). Hammons led the MAC a year ago in kills with 569 and became only the second player in league annals to register 500-plus kills two years in a row. With 1,398 career kills, Hammons is also closing in on the MAC's career mark of 1,709. Meshberger, meanwhile, was second in the league in hitting percentage (.375) and kills per game (4.23), while Zylka led the conference in hitting (.391).
Picked to finish third in the West is Northern Illinois. The Huskies also return five starters from a year ago that tallied 14 more overall wins (24) and five more league victories (12) than it did in 1999. Offensively, Northern Illinois returns last year's MAC Freshman of the Year, setter Jenny Bowman. Bowman paced the MAC in both assists per contest (14.17) and total assists (1,771). In addition to Bowman, NIU has second-team all-MAC choice Jen VonderHaar back as well as juniors Tenisha Wilkins and Rena Widboom. VonderHaar ranked in the top 10 in the league in hitting (.306) and kills per game (3.74), while Wilkins was seventh in kills per game (3.74) and Widboom was fifth in attack percentage (.317).
2001 MAC Volleyball