MOUNT PLEASANT, MICH. - The Bowling Green volleyball team keeps one-upping itself match-after-match, finding new and interesting ways to win each time out. The Falcons won their ninth consecutive match and improved to 8-0 in MAC play by overcoming a 7-2 fifth-set deficit Saturday night against Mid-American Conference West Division leader Central Michigan in a 25-20, 21-25, 25-21, 23-25, 15-11 victory.
Bowling Green has won four straight matches in five sets with each one being almost more illogical than the last. A week ago, the Falcons overcome a 7-3 fifth-set deficit to defeat MAC preseason favorite Western Michigan. On Tuesday, BGSU beat Oakland at its own game with 112 digs in a five-set win. Friday night, the Falcons overcome a two-set deficit to beat Eastern Michigan before Saturday's comeback in the fifth set against the defending MAC Tournament champions and MAC West leader.
Neither team was very sharp offensively in Saturday evening's clash of the division leaders in the MAC. The Falcons hit just .152 and Central Michigan finished at .160. In fact, it was the second-lowest attack percentage in a winning effort for Bowling Green this year. But the Falcons found a way to come up big when it mattered in the fifth set.
"This wasn't our best match and the credit goes to CMU for putting a lot of pressure on us offensively and defensively," BGSU Head Coach Danijela Tomic said. "However, the beauty of a team sport is that even when our players struggle individually, our team finds a way to persevere and prevail."
It looked bleak after a Danielle Tonyan attack error gave Central Michigan a 7-2 lead in the fifth set but the Falcons rallied with five straight points that included two Paige Penrod kills and a Cassie Berning service ace. BGSU still trailed 9-8 when Penrod posted another kill to tie the score. Tonyan followed with a kill that gave the Falcons the lead for good and Bowling Green scored the next four points for a 14-9 lead. After Central Michigan cut the deficit to three, Penrod had her match-high 16th and final kill for the 15-11 win.
While Penrod ended with those 16 kills, Tonyan and Lindsey Butterfield added `14 each. The Falcons kept CMU from finding much offensive rhythm with a solid night defensively as four players finished with double-digit dig totals. Ashley Dunn led the way with 24 and Laura Avila added 16. Penrod had 14 and Tonyan finished with 12.
That fifth set came on the heels of four tight sets in which Bowling Green took leads with first and third set victories but CMU stormed back with second and fourth set wins. The Falcons used a 10-2 run midway through the first to take an early lead and then pulled away in the third set on the strength of Leah Shaw's service game late.
"This was a tough match between two great teams with a lot of heart," Tomic said. "The difference was that we made some great plays in the fifth set when it mattered. Our team never gives up and we believe that we can win no matter what the score is. It's all about being mentally tough and our team has shown over and over again that we have all the characteristics of a championship team."
With the loss, CMU falls to 12-7 overall and 6-2 in MAC play. Bowling Green is now 13-7 overall and leads Ohio by one game in the conference standings at 8-0. The Falcons face two more West Division opponents this weekend at home as the team hosts Ball State, 3-5 in league play, Friday night at 7 p.m. and rival Toledo, 2-6 in the MAC, Saturday night at 7 p.m.