RedHawks Travel to Ball State for MAC Tourney First Round
Nov. 17, 2003
2003 MAC VOLLEYBALL TOURNAMENT PREVIEW
NEW TOURNAMENT FORMAT: This season, the Mid-American Conference adopted a new format for its volleyball tournament, which is patterned after its basketball tournaments. All 13 schools advance to the tournament for the first time. First-round matches are on Tuesday, Nov. 18 at the campus sites of the No. 4-No. 8 seeds; the top three overall seeds (the East and West Division Champions and the team with the next-best record) earn first-round byes. The remainder of the tournament moves to a predetermined site (Muncie, Ind.) for the quarterfinal, semifinal and championship matches.
MIAMI IN THE MAC TOURNAMENT: In MAC Tournament action, Miami owns a 17-9 record and is making its 15th conference tournament appearance. With this being the first time first-round matches are being played, Miami is 0-0 in first-round contests. However, Miami is 3-1 in quarterfinal matches.
MIAMI VS. BALL STATE IN THE MAC TOURNAMENT: Ball State is the opponent Miami has faced most in the MAC Tournament. The RedHawks and Cardinals have previously squared off six times in MAC Tournament action with the tournament series record knotted, 3-3. Miami is 3-1 when facing BSU in the semifinals and 0-2 in the championship match. This is the earliest the teams have faced each other in the MAC Tournament. In the last MAC Tournament meeting, Miami captured a three-game win in the semifinals of the 1997 tournament. The Red and White is 0-1 when playing in Muncie in the league tourney, falling in five games in the 1994 title tilt.
THE SERIES VERSUS BALL STATE: Dating back to the 1974 season-Miami's first season of volleyball as a varsity sport-BSU owns a 32-28 edge in the series and rides a nine-match win streak against the RedHawks into Tuesday's MAC Tournament First Round match. The Cardinals are 17-11 when facing Miami in Muncie. In the lone meeting between the two teams earlier this season, Ball State captured a three-game win in Worthen Arena. Miami has lost its last five meetings with the Cardinals in Muncie with its last win coming in four games in the final regular-season match of the 1997 campaign. Miami's last win in the series was in three games in September 1998. Ball State is one of only two teams Miami has faced every season since becoming a varsity sport. Ohio is the other team.
ABOUT THE CARDINALS: Ball State enters the MAC Tournament with a 15-14 overall record and a 9-7 MAC mark. The Cardinals downed Eastern Michigan in four games on Saturday to earn the No. 4 seed in the tournament and have won four of their last five matches with their lone loss during that stretch to Central Michigan last Friday. Sarah Obras paces the team with a league-leading 5.46 kills and 4.38 digs per game, while Stephanie Keller averages a MAC-best 5.96 digs per game. Stacie Baldwin averages 11.88 assists per game for the Cardinals.
SHAKE, RATTLE AND ROLL: As the No. 13 seed in the Mid-American Conference Tournament, Miami's focus is to play the role of the spoiler. This is no small task as lower seeds historically bow out early. Dating back to 1983, the lowest seed has never won in the opening round of the tournament. Miami, however, shook things up at the end of regular-season conference play, upending No. 5 seed Eastern Michigan and No. 3 seed Akron last weekend. Miami rides a two-match win streak into Tuesday's first-round match at No. 4 seed Ball State.
MAC NUGGETS: Several Miami players rank among Mid-American Conference statistical leaders, while Miami ranks fourth as a team in service aces (1.84). The following is the list of RedHawk volleyball players and their conference rankings:
All Matches: Angie Zent Service Aces (0.46), 5th Tara Buroker Kills (3.35), 13th Megan Clark Assists (8.85), 13th Suzy Wolford Digs (3.49), 14th
HAPPY ENDINGS: While the 2003 regular season was less than a storybook affair, the way the regular season concluded could not have been scripted much better in a fairy tale ending. Entering the weekend already predetermined as the No. 13 seed in the forthcoming MAC Tournament and with nothing on the line but pride, Miami put together back-to-back upset wins over Eastern Michigan and Akron. Entering the weekend, Eastern Michigan was still in the hunt for the West Division title, while Akron had already clinched the No. 3 seed in the MAC Tournament. Miami downed both teams in four-game matches.
STREAKING: Miami owns a two-match win streak heading into Tuesday's MAC Tournament First-Round match. The win streak may not seem like much, but the RedHawks had lost 10 straight at one point during the season and have only put together back-to-back wins three times during the campaign. Last weekend's wins over Eastern Michigan and Akron mark the first consecutive MAC wins for the RedHawks this season, and Miami tries to carry the momentum into MAC Tournament play this week.
BALANCED CONTRIBUTIONS: In its weekend wins, Miami received solid contributions from several RedHawks. Redshirt freshman Lauren Slusser (Columbus Grove, Ohio/Columbus Grove) averaged 3.38 kills per game, a .400 hitting percentage and 1.12 blocks per game. Senior setter Melinda McCormick (Kalamazoo, Mich./Loy Norrix) notched 14.25 assists per game, 1.00 kills per game and 2.88 digs per game, while sophomore libero Suzy Wolford (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) posted 4.50 digs per game, including a career-high 22 digs. Junior outside hitter Tara Buroker (Bluffton, Ohio/Bluffton) averaged 4.88 kills per game, including 23 (5.75 kpg) against Akron, a .384 hitting percentage and 2.88 digs per game.
BUROKER EARNS FIRST-TEAM ACADEMIC ALL-DISTRICT IV HONORS: For the second consecutive year, junior outside hitter Tara Buroker garnered First-Team CoSIDA Academic All-District IV honors. Buroker, who boasts a 3.96 grade-point average and majors in marketing, is one of only six first-team selections from District IV. By earning first-team all-district status, Buroker has been placed on the ballot for CoSIDA Academic All-America consideration. Last season, Buroker became the youngest player in program history to attain first-team academic all-district honors and is one of only four players to earn the honor twice in a career. She is a member of Beta Gamma Sigma academic honor society. Buroker has only received three B's in her entire academic career, including just one over her past six semesters.
SLUSSER PACING REDHAWKS: Over the last three weeks, redshirt freshman Lauren Slusser has been one of the main forces in the RedHawk lineup. During the six-match span, Slusser is averaging 3.28 kills per game and a team-best .387 hitting percentage. She also is averaging 1.00 blocks per game, knocking down two solo blocks and 23 block assists. Slusser produced a career-high 23 kills against Kent State and notched five block assists against Marshall, Bowling Green and Akron.
WOLFORD PLACES NAME ON SINGLE-SEASON DIG LISTS: Sophomore libero Suzy Wolford has placed her name on Miami's single-season dig and digs per game charts. Wolford has 401 digs to date to rank ninth on the list. She is just one shy of the No. 8 total and, if she continues at her 3.49 dig-per-game clip in Tuesday's match, she is on pace to move to No. 5 on the list. Wolford's 3.49 digs per game rank sixth on the top 10 list.
WOLFORD DIGS IT: In five of Miami's matches this season, sophomore libero Suzy Wolford has amassed 20 or more digs, including a career-high 22 in a four-game win over Akron. Wolford paces the RedHawks with 3.49 digs per game and has been in double figures for digs in 21 of Miami's 31 matches.
BUROKER INCHING CLOSER TO TOP TEN: Junior outside hitter Tara Buroker is getting closer to cracking Miami's Top 10 solo block list. With a team-best 19 solo blocks this season, Buroker is within three of tying for ninth on the list. Buroker would become the only outside hitter on Miami's single-season solo block chart.
ZENT: MIAMI'S ACE IN THE HOLE: Serving up only seven aces last season, junior outside hitter Angie Zent (Fort Wayne, Ind./Northrop) has made drastic strides at the service line in 2003. Last weekend alone, Zent launched four service aces and owns a team-best 50 to date. Over the last three weeks, she is averaging 0.60 aces per game with 15 aces while making just 12 service errors. For the season, Zent has been keeping her service ace-to-error ratio in check, serving 0.90 aces for every error (50:55). Zent ranks among conference leaders in service aces, ranking third in MAC only contests (0.48) and fifth in all matches (0.46).
OUTSIDE HITTERS FLYING SOLO: Junior outside hitters Tara Buroker and Angie Zent are pacing the team in solo blocks with 19 and 17, respectively. The duo accounts for 36 of Miami's 63 solo blocks this season. At Akron, Miami knocked down eight solo blocks as a team, three shy of the program record. Buroker sparked Miami at the net against the Zips with a career-high three solo blocks.
AT THE CENTERS OF IT ALL: Freshman Jordan Centers (Norwalk, Ohio/St. Paul) quickly made her way into the Miami lineup, but has done so in two different positions throughout the season. Playing in 24 matches and making 20 starts for the RedHawks, Centers has started 13 matches as an outside hitter and seven matches as a middle hitter.
DOUBLE YOUR PLEASURE: In 14 of Miami's 31 matches this season, junior outside hitter Tara Buroker has been in double figures for kills and digs, which accounts for more than half of the total number of RedHawk double-doubles this season.
20/20 VISION: Junior outside hitter Tara Buroker produced the only 20/20 performance for the RedHawks this season, collecting a career-high 28 kills and a season-best 22 digs in a five-game match with Buffalo. For the match, Buroker averaged 5.6 kills and 4.4 digs per game, while touting a .390 hitting percentage to pace the RedHawks.
SEVERAL 'HAWKS POST CAREER HIGHS: Junior outside hitter Tara Buroker was not the only RedHawk to achieve career-high marks against Marshall and Buffalo. Sophomore setter Megan Clark (Solon, Ohio/Solon) notched 15 digs versus Buffalo, while sophomore middle hitter Natalie Kapteyn (Grand Rapids, Mich./East Kentwood) tallied six kills and three blocks assists. Kapteyn also served up three aces each against Buffalo and Marshall.
POLL'S RETURN: After a three-week absence due to a leg injury, senior middle hitter Susan Poll (Grand Rapids, Mich./East Kentwood) returned to the Miami lineup against Marshall on Oct. 4 and collected a season-high-tying 12 kills and posted a match-best .571 hitting percentage. Poll connected on 12-of-21 attempts, making no hitting errors. She also served up two aces against the Thundering Herd.
SLUSSER AND WALTERS HOLD BLOCK PARTY: Redshirt freshman middle hitter Lauren Slusser and sophomore outside hitter Kristen Walters (Springfield, Ohio/Shawnee) opened Mid-American Conference play averaging 1.29 and 1.14 blocks per game respectively. Each knocked down a career-high six block assists against Northern Illinois. Slusser posted eight block assists and one solo block over the weekend, while Walters notched eight block assists.
ON THE BLOCK: One area that has been a challenge for the RedHawks this season is blocking, but Miami boasted one of its best blocking nights of the 2003 campaign against Northern Illinois, out-blocking the Huskies 13.0 to 9.0. Five times this season Miami has out-blocked an opponent with the NIU match being the largest block margin to date.
JORDAN'S MAC INITIATION: In Miami's conference-opening weekend, freshman middle hitter Jordan Centers got off to a good start, averaging 2.29 kills per game and posting a solid .419 hitting percentage to lead the RedHawks. Centers also knocked down 1.00 blocks per game, including five against Northern Illinois.
REDHAWKS ACE MAC RECORD: Spurred by 14 service aces in its second game against Hofstra, Miami set a Mid-American Conference record for service aces in a match, launching 23 versus the Pride. The record was three shy of tying the NCAA record for service aces in a four-game match.
ACES ARE WILD IN THE MAC: While Miami posted a Mid-American Conference record 23 service aces against Hofstra, over the same weekend, Marshall twice tied the previous league record of 21, which was last accomplished in 1990.
WALTERS TIES MIAMI SERVICE ACE RECORD: Serving up eight aces against Hofstra, sophomore outside hitter Kristen Walters tied the Miami record for service aces in a match with eight. She produced six aces in the second game against the Pride, including four of Miami's last five points of the set. Walters' tied Kathy Tepe's eight aces in 1986 and Wendy Tepe's eight in 1985.
GET TO THE POINT: One of the new statistics appearing on volleyball boxscores is player point totals. Kills, service aces and solo blocks count for one point apiece, while block assists are half a point. Junior outside hitters Tara Buroker and Angie Zent pace the team with 432.5 and 361 points, respectively.
ZENT AND WOLFORD EARN ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM HONORS: Junior outside hitter Angie Zent and sophomore libero Suzy Wolford (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) earned DePaul Invitational All-Tournament Team honors after Miami went 2-1 at the Invitational. This is the second all-tournament team honor for Zent, who was named to the Virginia Tech All-Tournament Team in Miami's season-opening weekend, and the first career all-tournament accolade for Wolford.
WALTERS EARNS ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM HONORS: For the first time in her career, Miami sophomore outside hitter Kristen Walters earned all-tournament team honors, being named to the Miami Best Western/Sycamore Inn Classic All-Tournament Team. Walters was Miami's lone all-tourney team representative.
MISS ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM: Last season, junior outside hitter Tara Buroker was the only RedHawk named to all three all-tournament teams (Miami Classic, Georgia Tech Invitational and TCU Invitational). Buroker opened the 2003 season being named to two all-tournament teams to string together five consecutive all-tournament team honors. She was named to the Hokie Classic All-Tournament Team in Miami's season-opening weekend and earned Denver Invitational All-Tournament team honors the following weekend. Buroker's string was snapped at the Miami Best Western/Sycamore Inn Classic.
AND SPEAKING OF ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAMS: Junior outside hitter Angie Zent also earned Hokie Classic All-Tournament Team accolades. This marked the first all-tournament team honor of her career.
SEVERAL REDHAWKS POST CAREER NUMBERS AT MIAMI CLASSIC: In last weekend's Miami Best Western/Sycamore Inn Classic, several RedHawks produced career-best numbers. Sophomore outside hitter Kristen Walters posted 20 kills against Eastern Kentucky and eight service aces against Hofstra. Sophomore libero Suzy Wolford collected a then career-high 21 digs against Eastern Kentucky, while freshman middle hitter Jordan Centers notched five block assists against Hofstra. Senior outside hitter Amy Pfohl (Toledo, Ohio/St. Ursuala Academy) recorded 19 digs against Eastern Kentucky.
TWO FRESHMEN EARN STARTING ROLES: Two freshmen quickly made their way into the lineup, earning starting roles at the Hokie Classic in Miami's season-opening weekend. Redshirt freshman middle hitter Lauren Slusser started all three matches and averaged 2.67 kills per game, 0.56 blocks per game and notched five service aces, including four against Virginia Tech. Freshman outside hitter Jordan Centers started the matches against East Tennessee State and Campbell. Centers averaged 2.33 kills per game, posted a solid .333 hitting percentage and knocked down 0.50 blocks per game. Both are regulars in the RedHawk lineup.
A MIAMI WIN WOULD ... * Give Miami a 1-0 mark in MAC tourney first-round matches. * Extend Miami's win streak to a season-long three matches. * Be the first time the lowest seed in the tournament has won a match. * Advance Miami to the quarterfinal round where it holds a 3-1 record. * Give Miami a 4-3 MAC Tournament record versus Ball State. * Improve Miami's MAC Tournament record to 18-9. * Be Miami's first win at Ball State since 1997. * End a nine-match losing skid to the Cardinals.