BOWLING GREEN - It was everything a volleyball match between the only undefeated team in a conference and the league favorite should be. Bowling Green battled back from a 7-3 deficit in the fifth set to beat preseason Mid-American Conference favorite Western Michigan in five sets Saturday night 25-18, 21-25, 25-15, 19-25, 15-11. The Falcons remained the only unbeaten team in the league at 6-0 with the win.
BGSU snapped a four-match losing streak to Western Michigan by getting at least 10 kills from four different players and holding its own against the league's best digging team. Although the Broncos had five more digs than the Falcons, BGSU negated Western Michigan's strength by blasting 70 kills and hitting .257.
Bowling Green won the first and third sets but Western Michigan forced a fifth by winning 25-19 in the fourth set and the Broncos scored seven of the first 10 points in the fifth set to take control. But the Falcons bounced back with a Leah Shaw kill, followed by a Western Michigan attack error, and another Shaw kill. By that point, Bowling Green had the Broncos flustered and Western Michigan committed errors on the next three points as the Falcons took a 9-7 lead.
Richelle Ranney weathered the storm with a pair of kills for the Broncos and Bowling Green led just 10-9. But Paige Penrod and Danielle Tonyan put home two assists from Laura Avila and Western Michigan burned its final timeout. Penrod added another kill after the break to make it 13-9. With a 14-11 lead, Lindsey Butterfield ended the match with a kill for the 15-11 win.
The fifth set was not the only time the Falcons showed mental toughness during the match though. After Western Michigan cruised to a relatively easy 25-21 second-set victory, the Falcons could have rolled over. Instead, Bowling Green used a momentum-swinging 8-0 run midway through the third stanza after falling behind 12-11.
In that run, Penrod had back-to-back kills and was followed by four consecutive service aces by Avila. Tonyan and Kaitlyn Skinner put the exclamation point on the run with a block that make it 19-12 as the Falcons rolled to the 25-15 win.
Bowling Green set the tone in the first set by hitting .306 and getting five kills, a block and an ace from Shaw. The Falcons never trailed in opening frame, using a 14-5 spurt to cruise to the 25-18 victory.
Penrod finished with a match-high 21 kills and Butterfield added 17. Tonyan had 16 kills and a match-high six blocks, while Shaw finished with 10 kills and three blocks. Ashley Dunn posted a career-best 29 digs and Avila handed out 58 assists.
With the loss, Western Michigan falls to 11-7 on the year and 4-2 in MAC play. Bowling Green improves to 10-7 overall and remains in the driver's seat in the league at 6-0. In fact, the six conference victories equals the team's MAC win total for 2011 when the squad went 6-10.
The Falcons will be back at home Tuesday for their final non-conference match of the year as the team hosts Oakland at 7 p.m. Bowling Green will then be on the road for a pair of league matches over the weekend, facing Eastern Michigan Friday night at 7 p.m. and Central Michigan Saturday at 7 p.m.