The BGSU volleyball team opens the 2012 season this weekend at the Marquette Challenge. The Falcons will face two tough opponents, playing host Marquette, out of the BIG EAST Conference, Friday night at 7 p.m. (CST) before playing Northwestern, from the Big Ten, Saturday at 4 p.m. (CST). The contests will be the first under new head coach Danijela Tomic.
Marquette is primed for a big season in 2012 and was picked to finish second in the BIG EAST Conference in the league's preseason coaches poll. The Golden Eagles received one first place vote and trailed only Louisville in the poll. Senior middle Danielle Carlson and senior right side Holly Mertens were named to the All-BIG EAST Preseason Team and both will provide a lot of offensive punch. Carlson was a first-team All-BIG EAST selection last year after ranking 17th in the country in attack percentage. Mertens earned All-BIG EAST Tournament honors in 2011. The duo helped lead Marquette to back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time in program history and the Golden Eagles earned their first trip to the NCAA Tournament a year ago with a final record of 24-11, including 12-2 in conference.
Northwestern went 16-15 a year ago and posted a 7-13 mark in the Big Ten, finishing 10th in the league standings. The Wildcats do return four starters and the libero from 2011. Junior outside hitter Stephanie Holthus has been selected to the Preseason All-Big Ten team for the second consecutive year after ranking fourth in the conference with 475 kills last year. In the Big Ten preseason poll, the conference only releases the top six vote-getting teams and Northwestern was not among those squads.
FOLLOWING THE FALCONS
If you can't be at the tournament this weekend, live stats will be available via links at BGSUFalcons.com or directly at gomarquette.com. Marquette will also provide a live webstream of Friday night's match via their website. Fans can also keep up with the action on Twitter by following @BGAthletics and @jknavel.
TURN THE DIAL
The Bowling Green Radio Sports Organization (BGRSO) will provide a radio broadcast of all BGSU volleyball home matches this season, which will also be available on the web via live streaming. Follow links at BGSUFalcons.com to listen on the web.
ON THE TUBE
BGSU's intersquad scrimmage was televised via tape-delay by the Buckeye Cable Sports Network (BCSN), broadcasting to the greater Toledo area. BCSN will televise a handful of BGSU's home matches this year and more information is available online at www.bcsn.tv.
NEW COACHING STAFF
For the first time in 30 years, the BGSU volleyball team has a new head coach. Three-time Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year Danijela Tomic takes over leadership of the program after 29-year head coach Denise Van De Walle retired following the 2011 season. Tomic spent seven years as the head coach at FIU, racking up a career record of 158-61. Assistant coaches Tucker Short and Jessica Hohl are also new to the program, as is Coordinator of Operations Lindsay Laurent.
BGSU was picked to finish third in the Mid-American Conference East Division, by vote of the league's 12 head coaches in the MAC Preseason Poll. The Falcons trailed just Ohio and Miami in the poll, and ranked ahead of Buffalo, Kent State, and Akron. Western Michigan was picked to win the West and the Broncos were also selected as the overall regular season champions and the tournament champions.
TONYAN NAMED PRESEASON ALL-MAC
Junior right side hitter Danielle Tonyan was named East Division Preseason All-MAC, in voting by the league's 12 head coaches. Tonyan is coming off of a sophomore year in which she was named first team All-MAC and ranked third in the league in kills. She finished the year among the top 100 nationally in both kills and points. She joined Ohio's Chelsea Bilger, Lexie Hartnett and Kelly Lamberti, Buffalo's Liz Scott and Miami's Madison Hardy on the team. The West Division Preseason All-MAC team consisted of Western Michigan's Jessica Brown and Terin Norris, Ball State's Kara Bates, Central Michigan's Kaitlyn McIntyre, Eastern Michigan's Rachel Iaquaniello, and Northern Illinois' Mary Kurisch.
ORANGE VS. BROWN
BGSU played its first Orange vs. Brown Scrimmage Saturday and Team Orange defeated Team Brown in four sets. For the Orange, Danielle Tonyan and Cassie Berning each had 13 kills, while Laura Avila handed out 36 assists. Ashley Dunn had 23 digs and Kelsey Bates posted nine blocks. For Brown, Paige Penrod led the way with 12 kills and Erica Fullenkamp handed out 24 assists. Penrod and Libby Dachenhaus both had 16 digs, while Kaitlyn Skinner and Lauren Mizgalski had three blocks each.
For the past few years, we've talked about how young the BGSU volleyball team is, but that's not the case anymore. Eleven of the 13 team members are either juniors or seniors (four seniors and seven juniors). That total is more than any other in the Mid-American Conference. Akron, Ball State, and Northern Illinois all have nine juniors and seniors. On the other end of the spectrum, Kent State has just three and Western Michigan has four.
TRANSFER OF POWER
The lone newcomer on the BGSU volleyball team is sophomore transfer Kelsey Bates. Bates, who hails from Willshire, Ohio, spent her freshman season at Syracuse before returning to her home state for this season. She is expected to compete for time as both a middle and right side hitter.
With an 11-win increase over a year ago, Bowling Green was easily the most improved team in the Mid-American Conference a year ago. The Falcons improved from 8-24 in 2010 to 19-12 in 2011. The second most improved team in the conference was Central Michigan, which had a five-win increase.
HOME COURT ADVANTAGE
The Stroh Center has proven to be a strong home court advantage for all three BGSU athletic teams that compete in the arena. For volleyball, BGSU stunned Michigan State a year ago in the arena in four sets behind a record crowd of 2,961. In fact, that was the largest crowd any MAC team played in front of a year ago, home or away.
DUNN IS DIGGING IT
Ashley Dunn finished the 2011 season with 19 consecutive double-digit dig matches and reached that total in 26 of the last 27 overall. The 19 consecutive streak is the longest at BGSU since Chelsey Meek's NCAA record 89 consecutive matches with double-digit digs from 2006-08. In fact, her 457 digs as a freshman rank as the eighth most in a single in school history and her 450 last year is the 10th most. She needs 267 more to break into the top 10 in career digs as a Falcon.
THE DYNAMIC DUO
Bowling Green has one of the most talented attacking duos in the Mid-American Conference in sophomores Paige Penrod and Danielle Tonyan. The pair was the only set of teammates in the MAC to both rank in the top 10 in the league in kills and points a year ago. Both have recorded more than 300 kills in each of their first two years. Only one player in program history, Corey Domek, reached 300 kills in all four years of a career.
Four active players have recorded at least one double-double in their career (posting at least 10 kills, digs, assists, blocks, or aces in a match in two of those categories). With six a year ago, Paige Penrod has a team-high 16 career double-doubles, followed by Laura Avila with 10, Erica Fullenkamp with five and Ashley Dunn with one.
20 KILLS OR 20 DIGS
Danielle Tonyan enters the 2012 season having recorded 20 kills in a match seven times in her career, while Paige Penrod has reached that total five times. Tonyan's seven career 20-kill matches are the most since Corey Domek had nine from 2006-09. Ashley Dunn posted seven 20-dig matches as a freshman and had three more a year ago for a career total of 10. Her career total is the most since Chelsey Meek had 44 career matches with at least 20 digs from 2005-08.
Danielle Tonyan was named first team All-MAC as a sophomore in 2011, becoming the first player to earn that honor since Shari Luther in 2009. Kendra Halm, in 2006, was the last BGSU sophomore to be named first-team All-MAC and she went on to earn first team honors again as both a junior and senior.
HITTING THE BOOKS
Bowling Green has always stressed academics and Falcon volleyball has been a model of that philosophy. The 2011 BGSU volleyball team received the AVCA Academic Team Award for the 12th consecutive season, compiling a cumulative grade point average of 3.30 or better. The Falcons have the second longest streak in all of NCAA Division I and has received the award 13 times overall. Two BGSU players, Laura Avila and Kari Galen, were named Academic All-MAC a year ago, while Lindsey Butterfield, Libby Dachenhaus, Ashley Dunn, and the graduated Emily Kauth were named honorable mention.