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Volleyball leads MAC, Powell continues comeback tour

<p>Junior right side Sarah Wojick jumps to celebrate a point with her teammates at Millett Hall. This season, Miami is 8-3 at home.</p>

Junior right side Sarah Wojick jumps to celebrate a point with her teammates at Millett Hall. This season, Miami is 8-3 at home.

The dust has now settled after another road weekend split for the volleyball RedHawks. The team had its revenge on one Mid-American Conference rival, Akron, and a painful loss against another, Buffalo.

Optimism is without bounds regarding the preseason MAC favorites, however. The RedHawks (16-9, 11-3 MAC) now have plenty of space between them and any other team in the East Division.

To compliment, Miami is now the sole possessor of first place in the conference, having one more win than Central Michigan. 

Here are a few takeaways from a crucial weekend:

It’s the Powell and Payne show!

It must be nice for head coach Carolyn Condit to consistently have a front line on the floor — all members of which top six feet. 

What makes things better is that senior middle Margaret Payne and junior middle/right side Avarie Powell are both guaranteed double-digit kills on a nightly basis. 

Payne continues to showcase herself as a star talent, posting her third season in a row with more than 240 kills, averaging a career-best 2.71 kills per set. The only question now is, who has the best change of filling in on the front line when Payne eventually graduates after this season?

Powell in particular continues a stretch of dominance that most fans of the team couldn’t have seen coming. Her past knee issues continue to take a backseat, as she has played in all 25 matches this year, accounting for 205 kills, which is enough to rank third on the squad.

A familiar struggle

Aside from snapping their nine-game winning streak, the loss against Buffalo (11-15, 7-7 MAC) gave an insight on the RedHawks, and it is something that has been an issue all season: falling behind early. 

Miami has stumbled early in many of its matches and their record might not be as strong as it could be because of it. For anyone who has gone down to Millett to watch a match this year, this isn’t news.

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Playing on the road can be tough for sure, but this problem has been apparent wherever the ’Hawks seem to go. Even against Akron (a match Miami won, mind you), it was the Zips (16-9, 9-5 MAC) that got out in front in the first, third and fourth sets.

That familiar struggle continued into Saturday, with Buffalo taking the first point in four of the five sets played. 

Everyone loves a comeback story, but having to force your way back into a competitive game isn’t a recipe for a championship.

Time to finish strong

HOLY SMOKES! The end of the regular season for volleyball is right around the corner and the RedHawks are now in control of their destiny as the postseason inches ever closer.

The two remaining matches against Bowling Green and Western Michigan are sure to be nail-biters, as Miami will also have to keep its eye on the Chippewas of Central Michigan going down the stretch.

Central Michigan lost against Ohio on Saturday, meaning the RedHawks will need to take only one of the final two matches to finish on top of the MAC. 

After that, the real pressure will be on Miami entering the MAC tournament. When Nov. 21 rolls around, it only matters how you finish. As the saying goes, “preseason rankings won’t mean shit if you’re on the first bus ride home.”

The MACtion starts Thursday at Bowling Green. First tip is at 6 p.m.