By Scott Sierzenga
In a season full of ups and downs, the volleyball team fell just short of reaching one of its goals on the season: a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
The Western Michigan University volleyball team finished its season with a 24‑11 record and 13‑3 in the Mid-American Conference. WMU played its best ball at home, losing only once in 13 games.
The Broncos turned it on at the right part of the season, though, winning nine of their last 10 games before the MAC Championship game against Ohio University. The Broncos went into that game against Ohio with an all or nothing attitude because a win would translate into an automatic NCAA Tournament slot.
WMU lost the first two sets to Ohio but came back to win the third to extend the match. The Bobcats offensive power was too much for the Broncos to handle as they lost the match in four sets and lost to Ohio in the MAC Championship game for the second straight season, something that has left a bad taste in their mouths.
The defense was something Western Michigan prided itself on all year as they held opponents to a .181 attack percentage all season and out blocked opponents 281.5 to 241. Senior libero Caitlin Strimel finished the season strong as libero and led in the team in digs with 541 despite playing a smaller defensive specialist role for part of the season. Strimel is fifth in NCAA history in digs and is career leader in digs in the MAC.
The Bronco players received an array of awards this season for their outstanding play. Senior Jillian Mitchell won MAC Setter of the Year for the second time in her career as she finished the season with 1346 and a 10.60 assist per set ratio. The Broncos also featured All‑MAC First teamer Allyson Doyle, who ended the season with 325 kills and 459 digs. Michelle Moore was second team All‑MAC as she finished her senior campaign with a team leading 463 kills with 3.38 kills per set.
WMU has a lot to look forward to and build around for next season as they return with Doyle and look to build around the MAC Freshman of the Year Jessica Brown in the middle.
Brown was second on the team with 2.89 kills per set and second in kills with 396. Also, Western Michigan looks to improve Ashley Turnage’s offense to add to her already stellar defense, which she brings to the court as she led the team with 1.06 blocks per set.
The Bobcats have experienced two five set games in the first two rounds of the tournament. Ohio handled Notre Dame Friday, but fell to the host University of Michigan in the second round Saturday. Penn State University once again remains a favorite to win it all.