BOWLING GREEN - Bowling Green held Akron, one of the hottest teams in the Mid-American Conference, to a .166 hitting percentage and the Falcons moved back into first place in the MAC with a 25-23, 25-20, 25-27, 25-17 victory on Senior Night Saturday in the Stroh Center.
Combined with Ohio's five-set loss to Central Michigan, BGSU moved into a tie with the Bobcats atop the MAC standings at 12-2. Western Michigan sits one game behind at 11-3. If Bowling Green and Ohio both win their final two conference matches, the Falcons would earn the No. 1 seed for the MAC Tournament.
Akron entered the contest with five straight MAC victories but the Falcons had eight service aces and kept the pressure on the Zips serve receive game all night. Bowling Green also set the tone by hitting .289 and .452 in the first two sets to jump out to a quick lead.
Danielle Tonyan had a match-high 18 kills for Bowling Green and she added nine digs. Lindsey Butterfield added 12 kills and four blocks, while Paige Penrod had 10 kills, 15 digs and five aces. Leah Shaw, the only one of Bowling Green's four seniors to play in all four sets, had a strong night with eight kills and a team-high six blocks.
The Falcons struggled very early in the first set, falling behind Akron 15-7 quickly. However, after a Zips attack error, Penrod served five consecutive points to get Bowling Green back into the contest. Akron stopped the run on a kill that made it 16-13, but the Falcons came back with another six points in a row to take control.
Akron clawed back into the set and a Chelsea Harvey kill brought the Zips within one at 23-22. But Penrod posted kills on two of the next three points for the 25-23 Falcons' victory.
The second set stayed even in the early going, but with the score tied at 10-10, Bowling Green put together three consecutive points and the frame was never tied again. The Falcons continued to punish the Akron defense throughout the set, finishing with 16 kills on 31 swings with just two attack errors.
After the break, Bowling Green came out strong and took a 17-11 lead in the third set. Akron, though, used a 10-2 run to turn the tide. The Falcons fought off three set points but the Zips got an ace on the fourth attempt to post the 27-25 win.
In the fourth set, the Falcons scored the first seven points and never looked back. The Zips never truly threatened and back-to-back kills by Penrod closed out the match.
As a team, Bowling Green hit .210 for the match with one more kill than Akron. The Zips held a strong 77-64 edge in digs and had one more block than the Falcons. Akron, though, had seven more attack errors.
The BGSU volleyball team honored its four seniors at the conclusion of the match, recognizing Cassie Berning, Kari Galen, Lauren Mizgalski and Leah Shaw. In the midst of the recognition, Berning was proposed to and accepted a marriage proposal.
With the loss, Akron falls to 15-11 overall and 8-6 in MAC play. Bowling Green, now 17-9 overall and 12-2 in conference, is just two matches from earning its first MAC championship since 1992. The Falcons will close out the regular season on the road, playing at Miami Thursday at 7 p.m. and at Northern Illinois Saturday at 7 p.m.