DEKALB, ILL. - It came down to the final match of the final day of the regular season and the Bowling Green State University volleyball team came up on the short end of a 25-23, 18-25, 25-19, 25-18 loss to Northern Illinois Saturday night. With the loss, the Falcons were edged out for the Mid-American Conference regular season championship and will be the No. 2 seed for the MAC Tournament.
Although Bowling Green ended with seven more conference wins than it did a year ago (finishing 13-3 after a 6-10 season in 2011), the Falcons went into the final weekend of the regular season knowing that two wins would earn the team its first MAC Championship in 20 years. But defending MAC regular season champions Northern Illinois stood in the way and the Huskies had enough to come away with the victory.
Paige Penrod and Lindsey Butterfield combined for 35 kills for Bowling Green, but Northern Illinois had nine aces and hit .250 for the match. Only one other conference opponent hit that high in a match against the Falcons and that came when Ohio hit .254 in a victory over BGSU.
Bowling Green battled from behind for most of the first frame and fought off a pair of set points on two Butterfield kills that made it 24-23. But Northern Illinois' Mary Kurisch posted a kill to give the Huskies a 25-23 win in the first.
The Falcons battled back in the second, using a 7-0 run midway through the stanza to tie the match back up. Trailing 13-12, BGSU got a kill from Penrod and then she served up six consecutive points and the Falcons rolled to the 25-18 win.
The third and fourth sets played out in similar fashion with Northern Illinois grabbing an early lead. Bowling Green fought to stay close in the middle stages before the Huskies pulled away late. In the third, NIU scored five of the final six points after clinging to a 20-18 lead. In the fourth, Northern Illinois closed with a 7-2 run after leading 18-16.
Penrod ended with 18 kills and 15 digs, hitting .277 for the match. Butterfield had 17 kills and hit .375. Ashley Dunn finished with a team-high 17 digs and two aces, while Laura Avila handed out 41 assists. Danielle Tonyan had three blocks.
Northern Illinois improved to 19-13 on the season and ends MAC play at 10-6 overall. The Falcons fall to 18-10 and 13-3 in conference play and will next compete in the MAC Tournament this weekend. As the No. 2 seed, Bowling Green will face No. 7 seed Eastern Michigan Friday at 7 p.m. The semifinals will take place Saturday and the championship Sunday on SportsTime Ohio. The entire tournament is played at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio.