OPINION: Western and Eastern matches crucial for volleyball in MAC Tournament chase
Near the end of the 2015 season, the Central Michigan volleyball team fell to Western Michigan on Oct. 30, 2015 and Northern Illinois the following night, leaving it with four games left to clinch the eighth and final spot in the Mid-American Conference Tournament.
The Chippewas missed their chance last year. Tonight, they have a chance to make a statement in conference play.
After a winless weekend for all three teams last week, Central, Western and Eastern Michigan sit in a three-way tie for eighth place in the MAC. Whichever team earns that final spot, will advance in the MAC Tournament.
The two most crucial games left for CMU in the regular season are tonight in Kalamazoo against WMU and next Thursday, Nov. 10 in Ypsilanti against EMU.
In their first meeting at McGuirk Arena on Oct. 2, the Broncos took the Chippewas to five sets before CMU rallied to take the win.
CMU's first meeting with the Eagles later that week on Oct. 6 was similar. The Chippewas topped EMU in sets four and five to take their second conference win in the 2016 season.
All three of these in-state rival teams have their backs against the wall. For CMU, it's not going to be as simple as rolling out the last game plan — resulting in two nail-biting, five set matches — and expecting it to work.
When I talked to the Chippewas' leading outside hitter Jordan Bueter earlier this week, she said beating Western in three sets would be a huge step forward for CMU.
She is absolutely right.
The reason the Miami (OH) Redhawks are recognized as the best volleyball team in the MAC is because they have a tendency to win most of their matches in straight sets.
All three of CMU's conference wins have been nerve-racking five-set matches. That doesn't take away from the hard work this team puts in, it just shows that they really have to battle for their victories.
If the Chippewas win in less than five sets tonight in Kalamazoo, their level of improvement and confidence will play a huge role next week when they battle with the Eagles for that last spot in the MAC Tournament.