Volleyball faces MAC showdown

The volleyball team has a chance to get to the top of the Mid-American Conference West division this weekend.

The team plays Northern Illinois at 8 p.m. Friday in DeKalb, Ill., and at 7 p.m. Saturday in Kalamazoo against Western Michigan. A victory in Kalamazoo could tie the West division.

“Northern Illinois and Western Michigan are both tough schools, and in our division,” said coach Erik Olson said. “On top of that, Western is our biggest rival. It’s an important weekend.”

Northern Illinois has gotten off to a slow start with a 1-3 conference record. The team has an offense led by sophomore outside hitter Allison McGlaughlin, who has 233 kills this season.

“Northern Illinois has really powerful outside hitters,” said middle blocker Kaitlyn Hurt. “If we don’t get our hands low and strong over then net, she is going to be a real problem for us.”

NIU’s offense has struggled against the block this season as it has given up more than two blocks per set, second highest in the MAC.

Western Michigan

For the last two seasons, the home team has won the CMU-WMU game. The Chippewas (11-4, 3-1 MAC) made the trip last season to Kalamazoo near the end of the regular season and were swept in straight sets. The match included a 36-34 loss in the third set.

“They bring out the best in us,” said junior Lauren Krupsky. “There is always a high intensity and a great level of volleyball. We are hoping to crush them in their own place.”

The Broncos have arguably the toughest offense in the MAC. They lead the conference with a .226 hitting percentage and rank fifth in kills and blocks.

“Western Michigan is a very well rounded team who plays very consistently,” Olson said. “They have had a lot of roster changes lately. We don’t know what we are going to get, but we will go there, adapt and compete.”

Western has won its last eight matches. The team has not dropped a match since a five-set loss Sept.15 against IPFW.

“We are taking the right steps so far to be MAC champions,” Hurt said. “We have to keep our record clean and, if we keep doing what we have been, we will do pretty well.”