After surviving four consecutive five-set matches, the Bowling Green volleyball team returns home to host to conference opponents this weekend. At 8-0 in the MAC, the Falcons are all alone in first place and carry a nine-match winning streak into the two matches. Bowling Green will host Ball State, at 3-5 in the MAC, Friday night at 7 p.m. and will then play rival Toledo, at 2-6 in conference play, Saturday night at 7 p.m.
DIG FOR THE CURE
Friday night's match has been designated as Bowling Green's Dig For The Cure game to raise awareness of breast cancer. Fans are encouraged to wear pink in support.
ABOUT BALL STATE
Ball State enters the weekend with a record of 10-11 overall and 3-5 in Mid-American Conference play. The Cardinals opened conference play with a pair of wins but have lost five of six since that time and are just 1-4 in true road contests this year. Ball State lives on its offense and the Cardinals are second in the MAC in kills and first in attack percentage. On the flip side, the Cardinals rank 11th in the MAC in blocks and service aces. Kara Bates, a 6-foot-1 senior outside hitter, ranks third in the conference with 3.91 kills per set and 5-10 junior setter Jacqui Seidel is also third with 11.20 assists per set. Senior Lisa Scott, a 6-3 middle blocker, is hitting a MAC best .440 in conference matches. Head Coach Steve Shondell is 59-24 in three years at Ball State after a long and highly successful career as a high school coach in Muncie (1,183-95 record with 21 state championships).
Toledo comes into the week with an 8-12 record overall and 2-6 in MAC play. The Rockets have been highly competitive throughout, but have come up on the short end of a pair of five-setters in league play, and will be looking to make a push for a MAC Tournament berth over the final half of conference action. Toledo is a solid defensive team at the net, getting 2.15 blocks per set. Dakota Harkins, a 6-foot-1 junior middle blocker, is among the MAC leaders in both blocks (fourth at 1.11 per set) and attack percentage (fifth at .297). Head Coach Greg Smith is 48-59 in his fourth year at Toledo and has a career mark of 129-153 in 10 years.
FOLLOWING THE FALCONS
If you can't be in the Stroh Center this weekend, there are a variety of ways to follow the action. Live stats, audio and video will be available via links on BGSUFalcons.com. Saturday night's match against Toledo will be televised live on BCSN, broadcasting to the greater Toledo area. As well, fans can 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
The Buckeye Cable Sports Network (BCSN), broadcasting to the greater Toledo area, has televised three BGSU home matches this year and will add a fourth Saturday against Toledo. The station televised the team's Orange and Brown scrimmage and followed that up by broadcasting both the Kent State and Western Michigan victories.
LEADERS OF THE MAC
At 8-0 in conference play, Bowling Green is the only unbeaten team remaining in the MAC. Ohio sits one game back at 7-1 and three teams – Central Michigan, Northern Illinois, and Western Michigan – are two games behind at 6-2. The Falcons are 8-0 for the first time since the 2006 team started 10-0 and this year's team swept their first three league matches in straight sets for the first time in program history. In fact, the team has four straight-set victories in conference play this year.
HOME COURT ADVANTAGE
BGSU is 5-0 inside the Stroh Center in 2012 and the Falcons have the third-best home attendance in the league at 715 (only Ohio and Western Michigan are better). A year ago, BGSU stunned Michigan State in four sets in the Stroh Center behind a program-record crowd of 2,961.
EIGHT IS GREAT
BGSU has started 8-0 in MAC play for the fourth time in program history. Most recently, the 2006 team started conference play with 10 straight wins and went on to finish 13-3, tied for second in the MAC East Division. Prior to that, the 1992 team started 13-0 and won the conference with a record of 17-1. The only other 8-0 start came in 1989, when the league played just eight conference matches and the Falcons won them all to earn a conference title.
BETTER THAN A YEAR AGO
With eight Mid-American Conference wins this year, Bowling Green has already surpassed its conference win total from a year ago when the squad went 6-10. It marks the second consecutive year in which the team has shown an increased league win total. Akron is the only other MAC team with more wins than a year ago as the Zips are 3-5 after going 1-15 in 2011.
LOOKING WAY AHEAD
Eight teams advance to the Mid-American Conference Tournament played at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio beginning Nov. 16. If play were to start today, the Falcons would be the No. 1 seed for the tournament and would face off against one of three teams with a 3-5 conference record – Akron, Eastern Michigan or Ball State. The Falcons hold a six-match lead in an attempt to qualify for the tournament.
Bowling Green has played in four consecutive matches that have gone the entire five sets. Prior to the last two weeks, the Falcons had played in just one five-set match, a loss to Utah. But the team has now won four in a row. It is the first time in program history that the team has played four straight five-set matches.
CAN YOU DIG IT?
Early in the year, BGSU's defense was a weak point and the Falcons had 28 fewer digs than their opponents in the first three matches. But hard work has paid off and Bowling Green is now one of the best digging teams in the MAC. The Falcons have outdug 14 of their 17 opponents since that time (including 7-of-8 conference teams) and had an amazing 112 digs against Oakland, the most for the program in 12 years. In those 17 matches since the slow start, BGSU has posted 108 more digs than their opponents. In eight league matches, BGSU has 67 more digs.
The NCAA released the latest Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) ranking of the 2012 season Monday and Bowling Green was up 15 spots from a week ago to No. 50, the highest ranking of any school in the MAC. A year ago, BGSU finished the year at No. 138. The Falcons' opponents this week are ranked No. 121 (Ball State) and No. 183 (Toledo).
HOGGING THE HARDWARE
In a five-week stretch, the Mid-American Conference has honored BGSU by handing down six MAC Player of the Week awards. Ashley Dunn has been named MAC East Division Defensive Player of the Week in each of the past three weeks. The week prior to that, Lindsey Butterfield earned Offensive Player of the Week honors and Leah Shaw was named Defensive Player of the Week. The week before that, Paige Penrod earned MAC East Division Offensive Player of the Week honors. Dunn has now been named MAC Defensive Player of the Week five times in her career. For Penrod, she has earned three Player of the Week honors (two offensive and one defensive), while Butterfield and Shaw were named for the first time. Along with those four, Danielle Tonyan and Kari Galen also have been named MAC Player of the Week at least one time in their careers.
HITTING ON ALL CYLINDERS
Over the past 12 matches, junior outside hitter Paige Penrod and junior setter Laura Avila have been playing at an extraordinary level. Penrod is averaging 4.38 kills per set in that span and has posted at least 11 kills in each of those matches. During the same stretch, Avila has averaged 11.1 assists per set, dishing out at least 50 in a match five times. Prior to these past 12 matches, Avila handed out at least 50 assists just one time in her career.
SHE'S ON A ROLL
Junior outside hitter Lindsey Butterfield has possibly been the most critical part of the Falcons' 8-0 start in league play, stepping up her game once conference action began. Butterfield never had more than seven kills a year ago and reached double-digit kill totals just four times in 11 non-conference matches this year. But since MAC play has begun, she has at least 10 kills in 8-of-9 matches and is hitting .289, a strong improvement over her .221 attack percentage in non-conference contests.
Senior middle Leah Shaw and junior middle Kaitlyn Skinner have been almost impossible to hit around since MAC play began. Shaw tied a program record with 11 block assists in a four-set victory over Buffalo and the duo are each averaging more than 1.00 block per set in league play. Shaw has 36 blocks in MAC matches, an average of 1.16 per set, while Skinner has 35 blocks, an average of 1.40.
DUNN IS DIGGING IT
Ashley Dunn keeps climbing the BGSU dig charts. She already has two of the best 10 single-seasons in Bowling Green history for digs and now has 1,247 career digs, tied for fifth-most all-time with Linda Popovich (1986-89). Dunn has reached at least 24 digs in four straight matches and is believed to be the first player in program history to do that. She is on pace to end the 2011 regular season with 476 digs, which would be her career-high in a season and would rank fifth in BGSU history. Her current average of 4.42 digs per set is the fourth-best season in program history.
Against Oakland in a mid-week non-conference match, Bowling Green had 112 team digs, the most for the program since 2000. In that contest, Laura Avila had a career-high 36 digs, coming up just two shy of the program record, set by Chelsey Meek in 2007.
300 TIMES THREE
Against Central Michigan, junior Paige Penrod recorded her 300th kill of the 2011 season, giving her at least that many in each year of her career. Only one player in program history, Corey Domek, has had four 300-kill seasons in her career. Remarkably, junior teammate Danielle Tonyan is only 50 kills from posting the third 300-kill season of her career as well.
A RECORD-BREAKING NIGHT
In Bowling Green's win over Buffalo, the Falcons set or tied a number of blocking records. The team had 23.0 team blocks, which are the most ever by a BGSU team in a four-set victory. The team also had a program record 40 block assists, while Leah Shaw tied the school record with 11 block assists in a four-set match.
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.