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Volleyball sets MAC Championship as the goal

August 25, 2011

I’d hoped to get to this post earlier (as in yesterday), but EMU men’s basketball has had a couple of too-big-to-miss news items in the last 24 hours.

The EMU volleyball team has plenty of returning talent this year, bringing back five of six starters plus libero Haley Stein. At the end of last season, Stein (now a senior) and Rachel Iaquaniello (junior) were named to the All-MAC first team, Ashley Mason (senior) was named to the All-MAC second team, and Erin Short was named to the All-Freshman team. The four honorees were the most from EMU since the MAC added volleyball in 1981. Then add in the team’s four incoming freshmen — Megan Crawshaw (Mattawan HS, MI), Natalie Folk (Saline HS, MI), Kelsey Jones (Reed City HS, MI) and Katie Krasowski (Marist HS, Oak Lawn, IL) — and you have a team that may compete for the MAC championship. That’s good, because coach Kim Berrington set that as the 2011 goal last November.

Next year, I want to put our players into focusing all their energy in competing for a MAC championship…We know how to win right now; we’ve held leads, won tied games, and even had our share of comebacks.

The other MAC coaches are having none of it, however, and EMU came in fourth in the West Division in the preseason poll (matching their 2010 finish), ahead of only Central Michigan and Toledo, and only Iaquaniello made the preseason All-MAC West Division Team. Like the men’s basketball team, the volleyball team has a tough non-conference schedule ahead of them, with only one of their fourteen games to be played in Ypsilanti, but unlike men’s basketball, most of those games will be neutral-site tournaments; last year they went 13-4 against a similar non-conference schedule, en route a a 24-11 finish and second-round MAC tournament loss. Berrington likes the trying non-conference schedule, and had the following to say:

I like to open up playing against tough competition because we need to learn how to play against teams that play at that NCAA Tournament level. I like the schedule that we have because we have some big, formidable opponents, but we also play some scrappier opponents who play great defense. It is a nice mix for us that provides an opportunity to work on a lot of different things before we head into MAC play.

This weekend, they begin that schedule with the Notre Dame Invitational, where they’ll play host Notre Dame Friday night, Butler Saturday afternoon, and wrap up with Idaho on Sunday. Notre Dame is a perennial NCAA tournament team, and expected to contend for the Big East title this year (they’ve won the conference 9 of the last 16 years), while Butler won the Horizon League tournament to advance to the NCAA tournament last year.

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