By Jordan Rinard, Senior Staff Writer
After beginning Mid-American Conference play with a 2-2 record, the Miami University volleyball team is looking forward to its home matches this weekend against MAC East rivals Ohio University and Kent State University after splitting matches the last two weekends.
The RedHawks (9-7, 2-2 MAC) are tied for second place in the division with the Flashes and the University at Buffalo, while the Bobcats are unbeaten in conference play.
"They're both consistent teams with a lot of depth," assistant coach Jesse Ortiz said. "Kent State has some high ball hitters that are efficient and a middle that's a great scorer. Ohio has a great setter who was MAC Player of the Year last year, great outside hitters, a libero that's in the top three in the MAC, and they're all quick."
The RedHawks would like to improve their consistency as they have dropped three of their last five matches. Freshman outside hitter Olivia Rusek has been lights out in her short time in Oxford, as she has recorded 2.90 kills per set, which leads the team and is not far from cracking the top ten in the MAC. Redshirt junior middle blocker Jenny Ingle leads the conference with a .402 hitting percentage and sophomore middle blocker Paige Hill is second with .349.
Senior setter/outside hitter Meg Riley and sophomore setter Krista Brakauskas have done a nice job of facilitating the offense, as they have contributed 5.73 and 6.02 assists per set respectively. An integral part of the defense has been freshman libero Maeve McDonald, who is fourth in the MAC with 4.19 digs per set.
"This week in practice, we're looking at film and playing out the other teams' patterns and tendencies," junior outside hitter Annie Reiswig said. "We're game planning against their stronger players, but we're also trying to improve our game. We expect to win this weekend, putting together good matches and doing the best we can."
Ohio (11-4, 4-0 MAC) is currently on a five-match winning streak with three of those matches coming in sweeps. Senior outside hitter Kelly Lamberti leads the offensive attack for the Green and White with four kills per set while contributing 2.78 digs per set on defense. The offensive facilitator has been junior setter Abby Gilleland, as she has registered 10.22 assists per set. Junior middle blocker Karin Bull and junior libero Meredith Ashy have been a pair of defensive assets for the 'Cats, as Bull leads the team with 60 total blocks and Ashy is the frontrunner for digs per set in the MAC with 4.73.
Kent State (10-7, 2-2 MAC) downed Buffalo and the University of Akron last weekend after falling to Ohio and Eastern Michigan University previously. The offense has been paced by senior outside hitter Tinuke Aderemi-Ibitola and freshman outside hitter Kelsey Bittinger with their 3.54 and 2.47 kills per set, respectively. Senior middle blocker Liz Reikow has helped set up a strong block this season for the Flashes with 81 total blocks.
"This week, we've been working on our blocking, being scrappy on defense and working on our transition game," head coach Carolyn Condit said. "Our blocking, serving and digging will be huge for us this weekend. We played well last weekend and we need to carry it into this weekend."
The RedHawks square off in Millett against Ohio 7 p.m. Saturday and take on Kent State 5 p.m. Saturday.
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