The RedHawks’ team pictures at the end of Saturday’s match said it all: we’re going to the playoffs, baby.
As if Miami head coach Carolyn Condit didn’t already have a resume to the stars, she and her team of RedHawks took home yet another Mid-American Conference regular season title — their fourth straight.
“It’s really special, they’re a really great group,” said Condit, holding back tears. “I’ve had a lot of wonderful teams, a lot of senior classes. This class, in 36 years, is definitely one of my top three.”
Through injury, adversity and a tough schedule, Miami (17-10, 12-4 MAC) emerged as champions behind one of the most successful senior classes in program history. The class capped off its last regular season with a spirited sweep of Western Michigan (14-14, 5-11 MAC) to give the RedHawks the top seed and a double bye in the MAC Tournament.
The match started off on the wrong foot with an attack error on Miami, but a service error gave way to an uninterrupted string of four RedHawk points, highlighted by kills from senior middle Margaret Payne and freshman outside hitter Allyson Severance.
The first set contained some sloppy play from both sides, with neither team able to score more than three points in a row. The back and forth continued before Miami gained control. Fate would have the RedHawks able to secure the three-point run that meant victory, sealing the 25-18 opening.
A frenzied battle took place during the second set, complete with 13 ties and six lead changes. The Miami defense was tested by the Broncos, receiving low and fast serves that took it out of the intended game plan.
It didn’t matter, as the vaunted ’Hawk frontline tallied five blocks, including two SportsCenter-worthy solos from sophomore right side Gaby Harper. The set ended 25-22, with the RedHawks coming out on top.
There was no funny business happening in Millett Hall for the third set, as MU pounced on Western Michigan, taking six of the first eight points. The beatdown continued, as the RedHawks were able to build their lead as large as 12 and give each of the five seniors a spotlight in their final regular season appearance.
The ’Hawks took care of the Broncos 25-13, sweeping them out of Oxford in a 3-0 match victory.
From there, the joyful chaos of the trophy presentation commenced, as members of the media and family alike swarmed onto the court to hand out their congratulations.
“Winning, for the seniors, our fourth consecutive championship, that just made it so sweet and so special,” said Payne. “We learned a lot and all of our crucial players are back from injury, so I think that’s gonna help us a lot going into final MAC play and the postseason.”
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“I’ve been blessed to be on this team,” said senior captain and middle hitter Hailey Stewart. “It’s been awesome.”
RedHawk fans can look forward to that awesomeness continuing into the MAC Tournament, which kicks off on Thursday, November 21, in Bowling Green, Ohio.