Nov. 26, 1999
MUNCIE, Ind. -- The WMU volleyball team, noted for its high-powered offense, used tenacious defense to defeated Kent, 3-0, in the semifinals of the Mid-American Conference Championship Tournament. The Broncos had a school-record 93 digs in the three-game set, played at Ball State Friday (Nov. 26). WMU won 15-6, 15-12, 15-12.
WMU (25-6) advances to Saturday's (Nov. 27) conference championship versus tournament host Ball State (27-6), which defeated Bowling Green, 15-6, 15-6, 15-7, in the other semifinal match Friday night.
In the championship match, which begins at 7:30 p.m., Ball State will seek revenge for the Broncos' 3-0 win, Sept. 24 at WMU, in the only regular season meeting of the two teams. Ball State has dominated the MAC in the 1990s, and the season-opening win in Kalamazoo was Western's first over the Cardinals since 1991.
Ball State completed the regular season with a league-best 16-2 MAC record, losing only to WMU and to Kent. Western Michigan finished as the No. 2 seed with a 15-3 conference mark. Losses in the final two weeks of the regular season at Ohio and at Northern Illinois, neither of which qualified for the MAC Championship Tournament, cost the Broncos the right to host the tournament. WMU's other regular season loss was a 3-1 decision to Akron, the No. 3 seed in the tournament, which was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Kent.
In the semifinal victory over Kent, junior Monyka Paul had a match-high 15 kills and a match-best .520 attack percentage. She also contributed 13 digs for a double-double. Also carding double-doubles in the match were seniors Traci Morin and Mandy Whitfield, both of whom were named to the All-MAC First Team earlier in the week. Whitfield had 14 kills and a career-high 27 digs. Morin had 14 kills, hit .367, and had 12 digs.
Junior defensive specialist Kelly Kuharski contributed 19 digs to the Bronco effort, one shy of her career best. Outstanding contributions were also made by two freshmen, Ashley Ritter and Cindy Kizer. Kizer's serves again led to several Bronco scoring runs. As she had in the quarterfinals, coach Cathy George again opted for Ritter at setter for most of the match in place of regular starter Jen Nowak, an All-MAC honorable mention selection earlier in the week.
After the Broncos lost three of their final five regular season matches, George said that other teams were scouting the Bronco attack, and she went to the change at setter to give tournament opponents a different challenge to defend.
Aided by two service aces, Kent opened the match with a 5-0 lead in game one. WMU responded with eight unanswered points and held Kent to just one point for the remainder of the first game. The Broncos never trailed in games two and three, although Kent tied the score at 10 and 11 in game three before WMU pulled out the 15-12 win. A Traci Morin kill was match point for the Broncos.
Coming into the semifinal contest, No. 6 seed Kent had defeated, in a span of four days, No. 1 seed Ball State (3-2) in the final regular season contest and No. 3 seed Akron (3-0) in the first round of the conference tournament.
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