KENT, Ohio – The Bowling Green State University volleyball team clinched a bid to the Mid-American Conference Tournament and remained at the top of the MAC regular season standings by defeating Kent State 25-16, 24-26, 25-22, 20-25, 15-9 Friday night on the road.
With the win, Bowling Green improves to 10-1 in MAC play this year, guaranteeing a top eight finish in the league standings and remaining tied with Ohio for the best record in the conference. Those two teams will square off Saturday evening at 7 p.m. with the winner taking over sole possession of first.
Danielle Tonyan needed three kills to become the second Falcon this season to reach 1,000 for her career and she tied for match-high honors with 18. She joins fellow junior Paige Penrod with that milestone.
The Falcons played their fifth five-set match in the last seven outings, winning all five of those contests and improving to 5-1 on the year in matches that go the distance. Bowling Green got the win by posting 27 more digs than Kent State and having five players with at least 12 digs. Ashley Dunn led the way with 20, followed by Paige Penrod with 18, Danielle Tonyan and Laura Avila with 14 each, and Libby Dachenhaus with 12.
Bowling Green controlled the fifth set, never trailing, behind the strong play of Kaitlyn Skinner. The junior middle got a kill on the first point of the frame and added four blocks, including three on the final four BGSU points. The Falcons pulled away from a slim 7-6 lead by outscoring Kent 8-3 down the stretch.
Skinner's four blocks in that fifth set gave her a match-high nine and she added six kills. Tonyan had five blocks as well.
With the strong defensive game both digging and blocking, Bowling Green held Kent State to just a .148 attack percentage and dominated the fifth set by holding the Golden Flashes to -.111 in the final stanza.
While the defense was strong, Bowling Green hit just .187 for the match and was unable to close out the match until the fifth set against a team it swept in three sets earlier in the year.
"This was another night where we struggled throughout almost the whole match," BGSU head coach Danijela Tomic said. "We are very fortunate to get a win against a much-improved Kent State team that played with a lot of heart and determination. Our serve receive was well below our season average and, when that happens, our offense struggles."
After dropping just one set in the team's first five conference matches, the Falcons have not had a sweep since and have been pushed to five sets four times to go with a five-setter in a non-conference match with Oakland.
"This match was another warning sign that if all of our players don't do what they are capable of doing and don't do what they are supposed to do, we will struggle as a team," Tomic said. "We need to regroup and refocus if we want to have a chance of beating an excellent Ohio team Saturday night."
After winning the opening set in easy fashion, BGSU fell behind by as many as five points in the second set before rallying. Trailing 21-16, the Falcons went on a 7-2 run to tie the score, but Kent State got back-to-back kills to even the match up.
Bowling Green answered back in the third after falling behind 10-6. The Falcons went on a 7-1 run, capped off by a Lindsey Butterfield kill to take a 13-11 lead. With the score tied at 20-20, Danielle Tonyan took part in two blocks during a three-point run that gave the Falcons the cushion it needed for the 25-22 win.
Kent State answered back with its best offensive set of the night, hitting .282 in the fourth and holding the Falcons to .111 for the 25-20 win. That set up the fifth and deciding set.
Along with Tonyan's 18 kills, Butterfield finished with 18 kills as well and hit .385 for the match. Penrod added 12 kills.
With the loss, Kent State falls to 6-17 overall and 3-8 in MAC play. Bowling Green improves to 15-8 overall and 10-1 in conference play. The Falcons will face Ohio, also 15-8 and 10-1, Saturday night at 7 p.m. for sole possession of the MAC lead.