BOWLING GREEN - Bowling Green closes out the home portion of the regular season this weekend as the Falcons host Buffalo Friday night at 7 p.m. for Parent's Night and then hosts Akron Saturday at 5 p.m. for Senior Night. BGSU will recognize four seniors – Leah Shaw, Cassie Berning, Kari Galen, and Lauren Mizgalski. At 10-2 in the MAC, the Falcons hold sole possession of second place, one match behind Ohio and one match ahead of Western Michigan.
Buffalo comes into the weekend with a record of 8-16 overall and is 2-10 in MAC play, ranking at the bottom of the East Division. The Bulls are 0-8 in road contests this year and have lost three straight matches heading into Friday night. Buffalo's .164 attack percentage is last in the MAC, but the Bulls are a strong blocking team, ranking second in the league at 2.41 per set. Akeila Lain, a 6-foot-1 freshman middle, leads the blocking unit at 1.28 per set, second in the MAC, while 5-10 freshman outside hitter Megan Lipski and 5-11 junior setter Dani Reinert are third and fourth in the conference in service aces. Head Coach Todd Kress is in his fourth season with the Bulls, posting a record of 53-67. In 18 years as a head coach (also at Fairfield, Northern Illinois, and Florida State), he is 308-226.
About the only team in the MAC that has shown more improvement from a year ago is Akron. The Zips are 14-10 overall and 7-5 in league play a year after going 1-15 in the conference. Akron has won four straight entering the weekend and is a respectable 3-5 in road matches. The Zips lead the MAC with 1.25 service aces per set and rank in the top seven in the conference in every statistical category. Tina Dimitrijevs, a 6-foot senior middle blocker, is the conference leader with a .362 attack percentage and she is also fifth in aces at 0.30 per set. Head Coach Ron Arenz is in his fifth season at Akron with a record of 58-87. He has a career mark of 94-116 in six years as a head coach.
FOLLOWING THE FALCONS
There are a variety of ways to follow this weekend's action and links for all are available on BGSUFalcons.com. BGSU will offer live stats, live audio (courtesy of BGRSO), and live video for both contests. 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 four BGSU home matches this year. The station televised the team's Orange and Brown scrimmage and followed that up by broadcasting Kent State, Western Michigan, and Toledo victories.
HOME COURT ADVANTAGE
BGSU is 6-1 inside the Stroh Center in 2012 and the Falcons have the third-best home attendance in the league at 722 (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 started 8-0 in MAC play this year 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 10 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 of at least four victories. Akron is the only other MAC team with more wins than a year ago as the Zips are 7-5 after going 1-15 in 2011.
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. 2 seed for the tournament and would face off against No. 7 seed Ball State, one of only two MAC teams to beat BGSU this year. If the tournament were to start today, these would be the first-round pairings:
No. 1 Ohio vs. No. 8 Eastern Michigan
No. 2 Bowling Green vs. No. 7 Ball State
No. 3 Western Michigan vs. No. 6 Central Michigan
No. 4 Northern Illinois vs. No. 5 Akron
In a seven-match stretch, Bowling Green played in five five-setters (including four in a row), winning all five of those matches. Prior to that stretch, the Falcons had played in just one five-set match, a loss to Utah. 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 17 of their 21 opponents since that time (including 10-of-12 conference teams) and had an amazing 112 digs against Oakland, the most for the program in 12 years. In those 21 matches since the slow start, BGSU has posted 137 more digs than their opponents. In 12 league matches, BGSU has 96 more digs.
The NCAA released the latest Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) ranking of the 2012 season Monday and Bowling Green dropped seven spots from a week ago to No. 64, second among all MAC schools (Ohio is No. 49). Among this week's opponents, Buffalo is ranked No. 234 and Akron is at No. 163.
HOGGING THE HARDWARE
In a five-week stretch, the Mid-American Conference honored BGSU by handing down six MAC Player of the Week awards. Ashley Dunn was named MAC East Division Defensive Player of the Week three consecutive times. 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 15 matches, junior outside hitter Paige Penrod and junior setter Laura Avila have been playing at a high level. In the first seven matches of the season, Penrod averaged 3.40 kills per set and recorded eight kills or less three times. In the past 15 matches, she has been much better at 4.13 and has at least 10 kills in every contest. Over those first seven matches, Avila averaged only 9.12 assists per set, but in the last 17 she is almost two assists per set better at 10.9. She has also handed out at least 50 assists six times in that 17-match stretch after reaching that total just once in her career.
SHE'S ON A ROLL
Junior outside hitter Lindsey Butterfield has possibly been the most critical part of the Falcons' 10-2 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 in MAC play, she has at least 10 kills in 10-of-12 matches and is hitting .288, a strong improvement over her .211 attack percentage in non-conference contests.
Senior middle Leah Shaw and junior middle Kaitlyn Skinner have been tough 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 two are each averaging more than 1.00 block per set in league play. Skinner has 59 blocks in MAC matches, an average of 1.44 per set, while Shaw has 46 blocks, an average of 1.07. In fact, Skinner went over 100 blocks on the season during the past weekend, becoming the first player to do that since Shari Luther had 103 in 2009. Shaw and Skinner are the only teammates to both rank in the top six in the league in blocks in conference matches with Skinner first and Shaw sixth.
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 1,316 career digs, fifth-most in program history. She is on pace to end 2011 (assuming a minimum of one postseason contest) with 494 digs, which would be her career-high in a season and would rank fifth in BGSU history. Her current average of 4.40 digs per set is the fourth-best season in program history. Dunn needs just 28 more digs to tie Holli Costein (1989-92) for fourth place on the career digs leaderboard at BGSU.
300 TIMES THREE
Junior Paige Penrod recorded her 300th kill of the 2011 season against Central Michigan and Danielle Tonyan did the same this past weekend against Ohio. They have both posted at least 300 kills in all three seasons of their careers. Only one player in program history, Corey Domek, has had four 300-kill seasons in her career.
STACKING UP THE MAC
The list below shows where BGSU ranks as a team and individuals among the MAC leaders in various statistical categories. Team or individual stats that rank first in the MAC are bolded and italicized: