Volleyball close to clinching spot in MAC tournament

By Mike Romor

With just more than two weeks until the MAC tournament, volleyball has all but clinched a trip to Geneva, Ohio.

While they still have four conference matches remaining, the Huskies (15-11, 7-5 MAC) need just one win and a Central Michigan loss to guarantee a tournament berth.

Central Michigan (11-13, 5-7) is hanging on by a thread to the eighth and final seed to the tournament, and its remaining schedule will not be easy. NIU travels to CMU Friday, and then the Chippewas face Western Michigan, which is also 7-5 in MAC play.

NIU holds the tiebreaker over Western Michigan thanks to a regular season sweep of the Broncos. This leaves NIU sitting at fifth in the conference standings right now, good for third in the MAC West.

The Broncos could overtake NIU for fifth, but it would not be a simple task. Both teams have the same remaining matches: CMU and EMU this weekend, then Ball State and Toledo to finish the regular season. NIU outplayed WMU in last weekend’s encounter while showing a better all-around game that will hold up against top competition.

As long as NIU manages to come out of its upcoming road trip unharmed, it should be fine. WMU would need to capitalize on an unlikely NIU loss to the bottom two teams in the division.

Ball State and Toledo sit atop the MAC West and are battling with Ohio for the top overall seed in the tournament. Toledo can take the top seed if it wins out the rest of its schedule and Ohio and Ball State lose two of their final matches.

Ball State owns the top seed despite having an identical 10-2 MAC record as Ohio because of a five-set victory over the Bobcats earlier in the year.

NIU would need a highly improbable domino effect to take the very top seed in the tournament. Being three games back, it would need to win out. On top of that, the Huskies would need Toledo to beat Ball State in its upcoming match, then lose the rest of its matches. Ball State would also need to lose its final three matches and Ohio would need to go winless in its final matches, as well.

While this scenario probably will not play out, it does illustrate how tight the MAC is, specifically the West, in terms of competition. There are only two weeks remaining and four matches left for each MAC program, yet all the teams in the West still have a statistical shot of making the tournament.

The Huskies sits comfortably in the fourth or fifth seed range. While NIU could very well hop past Bowling Green to take the fourth seed, it would hold no significance for matchups. The fourth and fifth seed play each other in the opening round and that match looks like it will be NIU against Bowling Green.

If that happens, it will be an intense match, as Bowling Green beat the Huskies in the championship match last season and crushed them at home earlier this year.