Kyle Steiner, The Miami Student
The Miami University volleyball team has a chance to make history this weekend. With wins over Bowling Green State University and Northern Illinois University, the RedHawks (18-4, 10-0) would set a new school record for consecutive games won.
The current mark of 18 set by the 1980 MU squad has remained untouched for the last 36 years. This year’s team looks poised to break the record, as it is riding a wave of momentum into the weekend slate. The Red and White have not dropped a game since September 2, sweeping 13 of the 17 matches in straight sets.
“Our team and our staff is just taking it one game at a time. We have to just stay in the moment,” head coach Carolyn Condit said.
The MU squad is committed to its coach’s main message.
“We have just been focused on how to beat two really good opponents this week in Bowling Green and Northern Illinois. That is our main goal and continuing the streak would just be a bonus,” junior captain and middle hitter Meredith Stutz said.
Breaking the record will not come easy, as Miami faces two of the Mid-American Conference’s premier teams. The weekend action begins 7 p.m. Thursday night against the Falcons, who stand at 16-7 overall with a 6-4 conference record. BGSU has won 7 of its last 8 games.
The Bowling Green attack is led by senior outside hitter Jelena Sunjic. The veteran standout leads the team with 298 kills on the year, averaging 4.32 per set. Senior libero Madeline Garda leads the Falcon defense, averaging 6.4 digs per set for a total of 512 on the season.
The ’Hawks then get a day off before they face the Huskies at 5 p.m. on Saturday night in a highly anticipated matchup between the MAC’s top two teams. NIU (18-4, 10-0 MAC) currently boast a 13 game winning streak in its own right. The matchup will likely have huge consequences in determining the top seed for the conference tournament.
MU needs to look no further than last season to find motivation for the huge rivalry game. The Huskies ended the RedHawks’ season 11 months ago with a 3-1 win in the MAC semifinals.
NIU boasts the reigning MAC West Defensive Player of the Week, senior middle blocker Jenna Radtke. Over the past weekend, she averaged three kills and 1.12 blocks, finishing with a .400 attacking percentage. Senior outside hitter Mary Grace Kelly is the Huskies’ primary offensive weapon, as she leads the team with 246 kills on the year.
The RedHawks come into the weekend fresh off two of its best defensive performances of the year, as they held University of Toledo and Ball State University to a .093 attacking percentage in six sets of action last weekend.
The back line is led by junior libero Maeve McDonald, who was named Miami Athlete of the Week. The defensive specialist tallied 30 digs, averaging five per set. Even more impressively, she finished with only one reception error in 29 attempts for a .966 reception percentage.
“We are trying to be consistent and focus on our side of the net. We need to have that mindset going into a big match like this,” McDonald said.
Miami now puts it all on the line in what may be the most important weekend of the regular season, as the RedHawks look to set a new school record and take down their fiercest conference rivals in their upcoming doubleheader at Millet Hall.