By Ben Blanchard, For The Miami Student
Last season, Western Michigan crushed the Miami University volleyball team's NCAA tournament dreams. That made the contentious five-set Senior Day victory over the Broncos even sweeter for the RedHawks.
With the win, Miami improves to 20-9 overall and 12-4 in the Mid-American Conference, and earns a first-round bye in next week's MAC Tournament.
Western Michigan falls to 14-17 overall and 10-6 in the MAC.
Seniors Jenny Ingle and Annie Reiswig were honored in a ceremony before the match.
The match was a battle from the get-go. After several long rallies and lead changes, Miami came back to win the first set 26-24 off a set play from sophomore outside hitter Olivia Rusek.
WMU overpowered the RedHawks in a heated second set, earning a 25-23 win to tie the match at 1-1.
Miami regained control in the third set, winning the least contested set of the match 25-19. Reiswig finished off the Broncos with a strong kill to win the set point.
"It felt great, I just wanted to do whatever I could to help the team," Reiswig said.
The RedHawks looked to end the match in the fourth set by jumping out to a 7-2 lead, but the Broncos came roaring back to win the set 27-25.
In the decisive fifth set, the Broncos came out swinging, earning a 5-2 lead. However, the RedHawks would not be denied, and a 5-1 Miami run propelled the Red and White to a 15-11 set victory, and a satisfying 3-2 match win.
Rusek led the RedHawks offense with an extraordinary 21 kills.
The victory over WMU came on the heels of Miami's 3-1 (25-18, 19-25, 25-10, 28-26) win over Bowling Green State University (7-21 overall, 3-12 MAC) Thursday night.
Against BGSU, Ingle led the Miami offense with 13 kills, no errors, and an incredible hitting percentage of .867. However, Ingle was not the lone contributor, as the team earned a sterling hitting percentage of .313 for the match.
Miami's setters were key to success on both sides of the ball, as both freshman Mackenzie Zielinski and junior Krista Brakauskas earned a double-double. Zielinski recorded 22 assists and a career-best 19 digs, while Brakauskas finished with 27 assists and 14 digs. Brakauskas became only the 12th setter in Miami history to earn 2,000 career assists.
After a 25-18 first set Miami victory, the Falcons used an 11-1 run to take control, eventually winning the set 25-19.
After dropping the second set, the RedHawks played with a new vigor, jumping out to a 12-2 lead in the third set. During the 12-2 streak, junior middle hitter Paige Hill recorded three kills, while Ingle earned two. Bowling Green closed the gap to eight at 6-14, but Rusek put the set out of reach with three kills to help push the RedHawk lead to 22-9.
The fourth set was another close call for the RedHawks, as the teams traded the lead five times before they were tied at 15. BGSU then scored three straight, then Miami responded with a three-point streak of their own. The teams continued to trade the lead until sophomore libero Maeve McDonald won the set (28-26) and the match with a service ace.
In the MAC tournament, Miami enters as the fourth seed, and will face the winner of Eastern Michigan versus WMU. The tournament begins Thursday and takes place in Athens, Ohio.
"We're really looking forward to the tournament. This was a great win, and getting a tournament bye is huge for us" Ingle said.