Volleyball moves into conference play
After going 10-5 in nonconference play, the Eastern Michigan University women’s volleyball team
will set its focus on Mid-American Conference opponents for the rest of the 2013 regular season.
The Eagles begin MAC play this weekend at the Convocation Center when it hosts the Ball State University Cardinals (12-3) this Friday at 7 p.m. and the University of Toledo Rockets (7-6) Saturday at 7 p.m.
The Eagles are coming off a tournament at Michigan State University that snapped a five-match winning streak, which included five consecutive three-game sweeps.
EMU will come into the weekend as the best team in the MAC in aces served with 100. Junior outside-hitter Jill Briner, sophomore libero Corynne Smith and sophomore outside-hitter Stacey Perinar lead the team with 16 each.
The Eagles also lead the MAC in digs with 899. Smith’s 262 are most on the squad and in the MAC as she averages 4.68 per set.
EMU’s outside-hitters will be responsible for the majority of the offense this weekend. Those roles belong to Perinar and seniors Erin Short and Paige Roback. Perinar has 154 kills, which leads the team while Roback and Short follow with 135 and 123, respectively.
That offense will need to match the high-powered one that the Cardinals bring Friday night. The MAC’s best killing team (765) will use offensive weapons senior middle-blocker Mindy Marx and redshirt sophomore middle-blocker Hayley Benson.
Marx was named last week’s MAC West Offensive Player of the Week. The Grand Haven, Mich. native had an attack percentage of .453 on the week and is second on the team with 136 kills.
Benson was last week’s MAC West Defensive Player of the Week for her blocking performance in BSU’s win against Southern Methodist University Saturday, Sept. 21. Benson posted 14 total blocks and leads her team this year with 54. Her .381 attack percentage is second best in the MAC.
The Cardinals and the Eagles split their season series last year, where EMU took the first match 3-1 and BSU won 3-0 for a sweep later in the year.
Toledo will seek to start off conference play right with the help of senior outside-hitter Lauren Rafdal. Rafdal has 176 kills which ranks her fourth in the MAC.
Eastern will look to maintain its dominance over UT at the Convocation Center on Saturday night. The Rockets haven’t won there since Nov. 1, 2008.
UT is 5-4 away from home court this year with its most recent wins being against the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay (3-0) and the University of Tennessee – Martin (3-1) at the Butler University Invitational Sept. 20-21.
Players to Watch this Weekend:
EMU Sr. OH Erin Short: Although she’s not leading in any offensive categories, Short has been a key to the team’s success with 123 kills and a .231 attack percentage. She’s also been stepping up defensively with 41 total blocks, third on the team. Short was named the Most Valuable Player of the Brown University Invitational two weeks ago and was nominated for MAC Player of the Week last week.
BSU R-Soph. OH Alex Fuelling: Fuelling has been vital to her team’s offensive success being third in the MAC with 180 kills. She also protects the floor well, having 145 digs this year which is second-best on the team.
UT Sr. MB Dakota Harkins: Not only is Harkins an offensive asset to her team, but defensively as well. She has 11 block solos, which is tied for second in the MAC. Her 107 kills and .354 attack percentage is second best for the Rockets.
Follow Derrick Vergolini on Twitter @derrickvergo.