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IPFW volleyball eyes regular season title entering season's final weekend

Friday, November 9, 2012 - 12:01 am

Coach Kelley Hartley Hutton is quick to point out an oversight with the championship banners hanging at the Gates Center

There is one championship banner missing among the rafters: the IPFW women's volleyball team's regular season championship banner from 2010. By the end of this weekend, though, there could be an additional volleyball championship banner absent from the Mastodons' home court.

Tied with IUPUI for first place in the Summit League, IPFW can clinch a regular-season championship if it wins its final two road matches against Western Illinois at 8 p.m. Friday and IUPUI at 5 p.m. Saturday

"It certainly would be a nice thing to put another banner in this gym," Hutton said. "One banner is missing and we'd like to get another banner up for being regular season champs."

The Mastodons (22-5, 11-3 Summit League) enter the final weekend of the regular season having won five of their last six matches. In addition, IPFW defeated both Western Illinois (11-15, 4-10 Summit Leauge) and IUPUI (19-9, 11-3 Summit League) in four games earlier this season at the Gates Center.

Despite the recent success, Hutton said Thursday that this would be one of the most challenging road trips for her team all season.

"Western Illinois, even though it's not always in wins, has looked like they've improved. They have a good staff and young team," Hutton said. "And IUPUI is rolling. They are playing really good volleyball and it looks like they are playing with a lot of confidence. We've played them tough here, but we have our work cut out for us in their gym."

IPFW is the only team in the conference with more than 20 wins. It is also the highest ranked Summit League team in the latest national RPI at No. 62.

The Mastodons last week became the first team to clinch a spot in the four-team Summit League Tournament, which will be played next week in Fargo, N.D.

IPFW could be the No. 1 seed or No. 2 seed in that conference tournament depending on its final two regular season matches.

All-conference libero Tessa McGill said she prefers being in the conference tournament but not having clinched a seed going into the final week of the regular season.

"It's better to play for something," the senior said. "Knowing that we could lose our No. 1 seed just makes us work even harder. We want to get the No. 1 seed."

Along with being the top seed for the conference tournament that will determine the Summit League's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, the regular season championship would also host the 2013 Summit League Tournament.

With IPFW being on the road for its final two matches, IUPUI will try to maintain at least a share of first-place as it plays host to Oakland on Friday.

An IUPUI victory against Oakland would set up a de-facto regular season championship match between the Mastodons and Jaguars in their regular season finale Saturday.

Hutton said she likes the potential of that match to decide the championship being played between the only two Indiana schools in the conference.

"How cool would that be," she said. "Let's keep it in Indiana."