WMU News

Broncos in must-win Homecoming contests

Oct. 18, 2000

KALAMAZOO -- WMU's football and volleyball Broncos, two teams with parallel seasons, find themselves in parallel situations.

Both teams have exceptional records and legitimate expectations for Mid-American Conference championships and post-season competition. Both also face must-win situations as they prepare for key home contests during WMU Homecoming weekend, Oct. 20-21.

The football Broncos are undefeated at home, undefeated in the MAC and have three huge wins in consecutive weeks over Toledo, Ohio and Marshall. In conference competition, the volleyball team is undefeated at home, is 7-1 in the MAC and is undefeated in its past six matches. Despite all of that, a loss on Homecoming weekend could deal a serious blow to either team's championship hopes.

Football vs Northern Illinois

Coach Gary Darnell's squad (5-1 overall, 3-0 MAC) faces Northern Illinois (4-2, 2-0 MAC) in a 1 p.m. football start at Waldo Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 21. Because of this year's system for determining the MAC division champions, games against East Division teams, such as Ohio and Marshall, mean little more in than non-conference contests.

What matters -- what really matters -- is the record against division opponents. WMU and NIU are both 1-0 in the MAC West Division.

The Northern Illinois Huskies have come a long way in a short time. Three years ago, they were rated as the worst team in Division IA football. Last weekend, the Huskies crushed Akron on its home field, 52-35. NIU is the top scoring team in the Mid-American Conference.

Gary Darnell knows the importance of the game with Northern Illinois. He was already talking about it in his post-game interview in the wake of Western Michigan's nationally televised win at Marshall, Oct. 5. The Broncos have been idle since then only in terms of competition, not in terms of preparing for what might well be the game that decides the MAC West championship.

Says Darnell of Saturday's contest at Waldo Stadium, "The winner will control its own destiny in the West Division race, and the loser will be looking for help from someone else."

Volleyball vs Toledo and vs Akron

The playoff scenario is a little different for coach Cathy George's volleyball Broncos (12-5 overall, 7-1 MAC). They host Toledo at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 20, and Akron in a 5:30 p.m. start on Saturday, Oct. 21.

At the mid-point of the 2000 season, the volleyball Broncos have the second-best record in the MAC. Only Ball State is better, with a perfect 9-0 conference mark. The top four teams host first-round contests in the MAC tournament, Nov. 21. Western Michigan is not in immediate danger of losing the opportunity to host the first round for the second straight year.

What the volleyball Broncos are striving to secure is home court advantage throughout the tournament. How close is the race for the No. 1 seed and home court? This close: the Broncos could win all of their remaining matches, including a Nov. 17 home date with Ball State, finish 17-1 in the conference, and still place second in the MAC West.

The reason 17-1 might only be good enough for second place is perennial nemesis and volleyball arch-rival Ball State University. The Cardinals lost only two MAC matches in 1999 (one of them to Western Michigan), are undefeated through nine MAC contests this season and don't appear to be losing any momentum.

WMU lost, 3-0, at Ball State on Sept. 23, and if the two teams end with identical 17-1 marks, trading losses only to each other, one of those 17-1 teams is going to lose the tie-breaker.

Ball State (9-0), Western Michigan (7-1), Ohio (7-2) and Northern Illinois (6-3) are the top four teams in the MAC -- four strong teams with four good records. Regardless of how the season plays out, the volleyball Broncos can ill-afford a loss to Toledo, Akron or anyone else on their schedule -- not if they want to be home for Thanksgiving and the MAC championship.

For more information, visit the Broncos on the Web <www.wmubroncos.com>.

Media contact: Daniel Jankowski, 616 387-4122; daniel.jankowski@wmich.edu

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