Posted: 4:00 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 3, 2013
The story of the MAC East this season will be about Akron’s returning starters and whether or not Bowling Green can unseat the Zips from the top of the division. Miami will need to regroup after the loss of their two best players to graduation while Buffalo tries to sneak in ahead of the RedHawks on the strength of its star sophomore players. For Ohio and Kent State, anything more than a single win in the conference would be a statistical improvement over last year but, in the case of the Bobcats, a brand new head coach is reason enough for optimism.
Last Season: 23-10 (12-4)
When the College Sports Madness Preseason All-MAC Teams were announced Akron had the most selected players of any team in the conference. Rachel Tecca and Sina King were named to the first team and Hanna Luburgh was a second team selection. It had all the makings of a dominate season for the Zips until it was announced King had a blog clot issue that would keep her out for the entire year. Tecca is coming off a junior season in which she was named the MAC Player of the Year after posting averages of 18.5 points and 7.4 rebounds per game. Even without King, Akron still returns three starters to a roster that features 9 letter winners. Akron’s non-conference schedule is highlighted by road games against Dayton and Cincinnati as well as a California road trip to play Cal Poly and UC Davis.
Last Season: 24-11 (11-5)
The Falcons roster will be headlined this year by Alexis Rogers. Rogers averaged 10.9 points and 6.0 rebounds per game last year as she and Chrissy Steffen led the team to their impressive win total. Steffen has graduated but head coach Jennifer Roos still has Rogers and two other starters from last year returning. In addition, Bowling Green has five incoming freshmen and a sophomore transfer from last season now eligible to play and help make up for the loss of Steffen’s numbers. The Falcons schedule features clashes against three Big Team teams. They play Michigan to open the season at a tournament in New York, at Ohio State and then at Purdue.
Last Season: 19-13 (10-6)
Courtney Osborn (19.1 PPG) and Kirsten Olowinksi (12.1 PPG) led Miami in scoring last season and both have graduated. The RedHawks roster this year has five seniors and two juniors but none of them averaged more than 10 points per game last season. The group will be led by the Robertson twins, Hannah and Haley, who will need to bump up their scoring averages to give the RedHawks a chance of winning the division against the likes of Akron and Bowling Green. Miami’s biggest non-conference opponent this season is Florida State, whom they play at home, on December 1st. Other worthwhile games include a road trip to California to face Long Beach State and San Diego State and a home matchup versus Cleveland State before MAC play begins.
Last Season: 12-20 (8-8)
The biggest difference in Buffalo this season might be the school’s change of name to the State University of New York at Buffalo. Sunny Bee, as I like to call them, will be led by sophomores Mackenzie Loesing and Rachael Gregory and senior Cherridy Thornton. Loesing led the team last season in scoring (11.6 PPG), free throws made (82) and steals (66). Gregory was on a similar scoring pace to Loesing before suffering a season ending injury at Toledo that I saw first hand and still wish I could unsee. Thornton fell right in between the two statistically. The Bulls will be looking to improve on last season with their top three players returning and a schedule that is heavy with road games in December but relatively light on big name opponents overall.
Last Season: 6-23 (1-15)
This will be head coach Bob Boldon’s first year in Athens after a successful stint at Youngstown State where he turned the Penguins’ program around in three years. He has more to work with at Ohio but the task will be similar: take a down program and return them to respectability. This year’s team sees seven freshmen and four sophomores. Returning senior Erin Bailes is the Bobcats most obvious offensive threat but Coach Boldon will be looking to get quick contributions from his new recruits as soon as possible with Quiera Lampkins being the Preseason Freshman of the Year. Ohio’s non-conference schedule includes a home game to open the season against Xavier and a road contest at Louisville. Ohio was one of two team’s in the MAC East to only win a single game in conference play last year so anything Boldon can do to improve that will be welcome for sure.
Last Season: 3-27 (1-15)
The Golden Flashes are coming off of a miserable year during which they were able to celebrate only one winning effort in MAC play. Forunately, it’s a new season with plenty of new faces to generate interest amongst fans. The team’s top three scorers from last season (Tamzin Barroilhet, Diamon Beckford and Trisha Krewson) have graduated and most of the scoring and leadership burden will fall on the shoulders of seniors Amber Dunlap and Ashley Evans, neither of which averaged more than 6 points a game last season. Fortunately for Dunlap and Evans, Kent State has four incoming freshmen and three transfers. All of those new faces and extra pressure on the senior class will make for an interesting season at Kent State as they face a schedule including matchups against Duquesne and Cincinnati in November.
I can’t see Bowling Green or Miami having enough to unseat Akron from the top of the East despite the loss of Sina King for the Zips. Buffalo should see gains if Rachael Gregory can return to form following her injury. Ohio is, to me, one of the most interesting teams in the division now that Bob Boldon is in charge. I don’t think the Bobcats will see a huge improvement this season but they should be a team to watch in the future. Finally, to all of the Kent State fans who read this, I suggest you get ready for another bumpy ride unless some of those new freshmen contribute immediately in a big way.