Broncos Sweep Zips in MAC Road Clash
AKRON, Ohio - The Western Michigan volleyball team snapped a two-match losing skid with their first sweep in Mid-American Conference play, as the Broncos defeated the Akron Zips 3-0 (25-17, 25-15, 25-22) at James A. Rhodes Arena in Akron on Friday. With the win, the Broncos improve to 11-9 on the season, 4-3 in MAC play.
The Bronco offense was highly balanced in the match, with six players recording at least five kills and no one player recording more than nine. Ave Stout posted a match-high nine kills on 16 swings with zero errors for an excellent .562 hitting percentage, and also added five blocks in the Broncos' victory. Lena Oliver had a match-high 18 digs, moving her into sole possession of second place on the MAC career digs list behind just WMU's Caitlin Strimel. Also in double-digits in digs was Alysia Baznik, who finished with seven kills and one assist as well. Richelle Ranney added seven kills and a .286 hitting percentage, as well as one block.
The Broncos and Zips fought nip and tuck early in the first set, with WMU pulling away around the midway point and not allowing Akron back into the game. The Broncos held a slim 7-6 lead before Rachel Sheffer tipped a kill through the blocker to make it a two-point set; a few points later, Baznik ripped a cross court kill to give WMU a 12-8 advantage and force an Akron timeout. The lead hovered around four points until late in the set, when Stout solo blocked Karley Kusan to give the Broncos an 18-13 advantage, and it swelled all the way to eight points on an attack error by Akron's Tori Lanzillotti. Sheffer was the one to ice the set, launching a down line kill to make it 25-17.
The script remained very much the same in the second set, with the Broncos simply opening up their lead earlier in the set. Stout ripped kills on back-to-back points to give the Broncos a 4-3 lead, and added a block on the next point to extend the lead to two points. The Broncos rattled the Zips with a 7-1 run that forced Akron into a timeout, and the assault continued when Sheffer and Ranney notched kills on consecutive points to give the Broncos a 16-7 advantage. Baznik made it so the Broncos were the first to 20 points when she launched a kill to make it 20-13, and Caroline Rose gave WMU a 23-13 edge with a sick back row attack and kill. Ultimately, though, it would be the Zips who finished the set, hitting an attack out of bounds to give the Broncos a 25-15 win.
The third set would see the Zips actually jump out to the early advantage, at one point leading the Broncos 15-10 and forcing them into their only timeout of the match. However, WMU was more than up to the task coming out of the timeout, scoring seven of the next eight points to take a 17-16 advantage. The set was last tied at 20-20, but an Akron attack error gave the Broncos the breathing room they needed to seal the deal; Baznik notched a solo block to make it 22-20 and force a Zip timeout, Stout made it 23-21 with a kill, and another Akron error ultimately gave the Broncos the 25-22 set win.