Written by: Parker Perry
With 10 matches left to play in the 2012 volleyball regular season, the Akron Zips sit on the edge of a cliff: the Mid-American Conference Standings.
The top eight teams will play in the conference tournament at Geneva, Ohio in late November. The Akron Zips are tied for seventh.
This weekend will be a test for the Zips. A test that, if passed, will solidify their presence as a competing MAC team. A test that, if failed, will tell a story of a program that is not ready to take the next step.
Akron will face Western Michigan and Northern Illinois, two teams that have historically given Akron problems. The Zips’ combined record against them is 19-37, just a .339 winning percentage. If the Zips wish to make the jump to being a competitive team, they must reverse trends like these.
It will be no easy task this year, as WMU and NIU are tied for second in the Mid-American Conference West, with 4-2 MAC records.
Despite their winning records, both teams do have issues that can be exploited. Akron carries a higher hitting percentage than either squad. Akron’s .233 percentages edges out Western Michigan’s .229 and Northern Illinois’s .209. But Akron falls behind defensively. Both squads edge out the Zips in digs-per-set. (It should be noted that statistics may be skewed on some points, due to competition levels.)
Akron has one of the top offensive players in the MAC in senior Tina Dimitrijevs. On Friday night, Western Michigan will counter with Jesse Brown. Brown currently holds a kill rate of 3.22 per set, and is one of the more feared players in the conference. Along with her offense, the Broncos will send out Allie Gossen for defensive purposes. Gossen has managed two digs per set. The duo will be tough for Akron to overcome, and will cause them to rely on their bigs near the net to control up front.
Northern Illinois has a duo of their own. Meghan Romo and Mackenzie Roddy both have kill rates of above 3.5 per set. They are one of the more dangerous tandems to play in the conference, and they have helped their team to the fourth seed.
Akron faces two tough opponents over the weekend. If they come through, they will move up in the standings for the final stretch of the season. However, if they fall, it will put them in a hole that will be difficult to climb out of.