Falcons Return To NCAA Tourney For First Time In 21 Years - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Courtesy: BGSU Sports Information

Falcons Return To NCAA Tourney For First Time In 21 Years

Posted: Updated:

BOWLING GREEN - Yale enters Friday night's contest with one of the longest winning streaks in the country, having posted 14 consecutive victories. The Bulldogs went undefeated in Ivy League play, dropping just six sets along the way and never facing a fifth set. Yale ranks second in the country in kills, averaging 14.9 per set and the Bulldogs are also second in digs at 19.72 per set. Five different players average at least 2.00 kills per set and 5-foot-9 sophomore libero Maddie Rudnick leads the squad with 4.76 digs per set. Head coach Erin Appleman is 182-68 in 10 years leading Yale, winning five conference championships. The Bulldogs played in the NCAA Tournament a year ago, getting swept by USC 25-13, 25-13, 25-18.

There will be a variety of ways to follow this weekend's action and links for all will be available on BGSUFalcons.com. Live stats and live video will be available and fans can keep up with the action on Twitter by following @BGAthletics and @jknavel.

Bowling Green has made just one previous appearance in the NCAA Tournament, losing to Wisconsin in the first round in 1991 by scores of 15-8, 15-4, 16-14.

A year ago, Bowling Green was the most improved team in the Mid-American Conference, going from 8-24 in 2010 to 19-12 in 2011. With 21 wins this year, Bowling Green is the second-most improved team in the MAC again. Only Akron's 12-win increase is larger in the conference this year.

Paige Penrod was named Most Valuable Player of the MAC Tournament after posting double-doubles in all three matches. She had 12 kills and 19 digs in the sweep of Eastern Michigan and followed that up with 14 kills and 20 digs in the semifinals against Western Michigan. In the championship, Penrod had 17 kills and a career-high 28 digs. Lindsey Butterfield was also named to the all-tournament team after recording at least 12 kills in each match and picking up the first two double-doubles of her career, finishing with at least 10 kills and 10 digs in the semifinals and the championship.

Bowling Green faced four schools this year that advanced to the NCAA Tournament, losing all four contests. The Falcons were swept by Purdue, Marquette, BYU and Cleveland State.

Bowling Green had three players named first team All-MAC in voting by the league's 12 head coaches. Junior outside hitters Danielle Tonyan, Paige Penrod and Lindsey Butterfield were all selected to the squad prior to the MAC Tournament. Those three all have more than 350 kills this year.

BGSU finished the year with an 8-1 record inside the Stroh Center. The team also had the third-best home attendance in the league, averaging 722 fans (only Ohio and Western Michigan were better).

In just her first season at the helm, Danijela Tomic's 21-10 record is easily the best for any first-year coach in BGSU history. Denise Van De Walle's first team went 11-22 in 1983, Sandy Haines' first squad went 10-22 in 1980 and Pat Peterson was 8-10 in 1976.

Bowling Green heads into the NCAA Tournament with a record of 17-3 in its last 20 matches. The Falcons have not had a 20-match stretch that strong since a 19-1 stretch in 2006 that included 17 consecutive victories.

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.

With 13 Mid-American Conference wins this year, Bowling Green has more-than doubled 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. At 9-7, Akron showed the most improvement in the league following a 1-15 campaign in 2011. Ohio, Western Michigan and Central Michigan each had a one-win improvement.

In pre-conference play, Bowling Green played just one five-set match, losing to Utah. Since conference play began, however, the Falcons have gone 8-0 in five-setters, including one stretch of four consecutive matches as well as both the MAC Tournament semifinal and the MAC Tournament championship. During those eight wins, no opponent has scored more than 11 points in the fifth set. When Bowling Green played four straight five-set matches, it marked the first time in program history that had ever occurred.

While the team's 8-1 record in five-set matches is impressive, the 2008 Falcons were just a bit better. That team went 9-1 in five-set matches, winning its last eight such contests in a row, just as this year's version has done.

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 around. The Falcons have outdug 22 of their 28 opponents since that time (including 13-of-16 conference teams) and had an amazing 112 digs against Oakland, the most for the program in 12 years. In those 28 matches since the slow start, BGSU has posted 186 more digs than their opponents, an average of 6.6 per contest. In 16 league matches, BGSU had 121 more digs, an average of 7.6 per match.

Lindsey Butterfield became just the fifth BGSU volleyball player to earn Capital One First Team Academic All-District honors last week when she was named to the District 5 team. Butterfield, who holds a 3.89 grade point average in biology, was one of six members of the first team. She is now on the ballot for Academic All-America honors.

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.

Junior outside hitter Paige Penrod has 470 kills this year, ninth most in program history and the most in 11 years. She needs nine more kills to tie Jo Lynn Williamson (1986) for eighth and 29 more to tie Lisa Mika (1991) for seventh.

While the Falcon hitters have gotten most of the headlines, junior setter Laura Avila has done a great job giving all three plenty of swings to stay in rhythm. In fact, Avila's 1,277 assists this year is the seventh most in school history. She needs 31 more to tie Natalie Becker (2001) for sixth, 39 more to tie Carey Amos (1991) for fifth and 44 more to tie Heather Greig (1999) for fourth. In fact, Chrissy Gothke's 2006 season is only 51 assists ahead of Avila for third place.

Junior outside hitter Lindsey Butterfield has possibly been the most critical part of the Falcons' 13-3 MAC season, 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 had at least 10 kills in 13-of-16 matches and hit a team-best .287, a strong improvement over her .211 attack percentage in non-conference contests. In the MAC Tournament, Butterfield had at least 12 kills in each of the three matches.

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 69 blocks in MAC matches, an average of 1.21 per set, while Shaw has 65 blocks, an average of 1.10. In fact, Skinner's 127 blocks are the most for a Falcon since Kendra Halm had 131 in 2008. Shaw and Skinner are the only teammates to both rank in the top five in the league in blocks in conference matches with Skinner second and Shaw fifth.

Ashley Dunn keeps climbing the BGSU dig charts. With 538 digs this year, she has the third-best season in program history and now has 1,445 career digs, fourth-most in program history. She also ranks ninth on the single-season digs list with 457 as a freshman. Her current season average of 4.41 digs per set is the fourth-best season in program history. Dunn needs 20 more digs to tie Chrissy Gothke (2003-06) for third place on the career digs leaderboard at BGSU.

Junior Paige Penrod recorded her 300th kill of the 2011 season against Central Michigan and Danielle Tonyan did the same 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.

Junior Paige Penrod has 470 kills, reaching at least 400 for the second time in her three-year career. Danielle Tonyan needs just three more get to 400 and and if she does, they would be the first BGSU teammates to do that since Caty Rommeck (514 kills) and Kristin Gamby (407 kills) in 2001.

Junior setter Laura Avila moved into 10th place in career assists at BGSU earlier this year and became just the 10th player in program history with 2,000 career assists in the win over Ohio. With 2,846, she has moved into sixth place and needs 25 more to tie former teammate Sam Fish (2007-10) for fifth. Paige Penrod is sixth in career attack attempts, with 3,359 and also has 97 career aces, needing one more to tie Wendy Watkins (1994-97) for 10th place at BGSU. Ashley Dunn is already in fourth place in career digs at BGSU and needs 20 more to tie Gothke for third place.

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.

In Bowling Green's first 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.

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. BGSU was also on television regionally on SportsTime Ohio as the Falcons defeated Northern Illinois for the MAC Championship. Bowling Green is 4-0 in television matches this year.

Before winning three matches to take the MAC Tournament this year, the Falcons had not won a match in the league tournament since 2009. With those three wins, the Falcons improved to 19-23 all-time in the MAC Tournament and just 2-5 in the tournament championship contest.

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.

Paige Penrod recorded double-doubles (at least 10 kills, digs, assists, blocks, or aces in a match in two of those categories) in seven consecutive matches prior to the second Ohio contest, giving her 20 this year and a team-high 36 for her career. Laura Avila follows with 26 (16 this year) and Danielle Tonyan has six, all of them this year. Lindsey Butterfield posted the first two double-doubles of her career in the MAC Tournament semifinals and championship match. Erica Fullenkamp has posted five double-doubles in her career and Ashley Dunn has one. Penrod's 36 career double-doubles are the most since Chrissy Gothke had 38 from 2003-06.

Paige Penrod has posted 20 kills in a match 11 times in her career and Danielle Tonyan has reached that total eight times. Lindsey Butterfield had her first career-20 kill match against Eastern Michigan and her second in the MAC Championship against Northern Illinois. Those 11 career 20-kill matches for Penrod are the most since Caty Rommeck had 17 from 1999-01. Ashley Dunn posted seven 20-dig matches as a freshman, three more as a sophomore, and has 10 more this year for a career total of 20. Her career total is the most since Chelsey Meek had 44 career matches with at least 20 digs from 2005-08. Paige Penrod has three career 20-dig matches (all this year), while Cassie Berning and Laura Avila recorded their only career 20-dig matches this year.

Bowling Green has twice had a player named MAC Scholar-Athlete of the Week. Most recently, Paige Penrod received the award on Nov. 26 after being named MAC Tournament MVP with a 3.33 GPA. Lindsey Butterfield earned the honor on Sept. 26 with a 3.89 GPA. The weekly award is given to just one male and one female student-athlete across all sports in the MAC.

Four different BGSU players earned all-tournament honors at one of the four pre-conference tournament this year. Paige Penrod earned the honor twice (making five in her career), being named to the team at the last two tournaments, the Purdue Active Ankle Challenge and the BYU Nike Invitational. Laura Avila was also named all-tournament at the Purdue Active Ankle Challenge (the second of her career), while Kaitlyn Skinner earned her first career all-tournament honor at the Indiana Invitational. Danielle Tonyan opened the year by being named to the Marquette Challenge All-Tournament team, the third all-tournament honor she has earned in her three years at BGSU.

BGSU was picked to finish third in the Mid-American Conference East Division, by vote of the league's 12 head coaches in the MAC Preseason Poll. The Falcons trailed just Ohio and Miami in the poll, and ranked ahead of Buffalo, Kent State, and Akron. Western Michigan was picked to win the West and the Broncos were also selected as the overall regular season champions and the tournament champions.

Junior right side hitter Danielle Tonyan was named East Division Preseason All-MAC, in voting by the league's 12 head coaches. Tonyan is coming off of a sophomore year in which she was named first team All-MAC and ranked third in the league in kills. She finished the year among the top 100 nationally in both kills and points. She joined Ohio's Chelsea Bilger, Lexie Hartnett and Kelly Lamberti, Buffalo's Liz Scott and Miami's Madison Hardy on the team. The West Division Preseason All-MAC team consisted of Western Michigan's Jessica Brown and Terin Norris, Ball State's Kara Bates, Central Michigan's Kaitlyn McIntyre, Eastern Michigan's Rachel Iaquaniello, and Northern Illinois' Mary Kurisch.
For the past few years, we've talked about how young the BGSU volleyball team is, but that's not the case anymore. Eleven of the 13 team members are either juniors or seniors (four seniors and seven juniors). That total is more than any other in the Mid-American Conference. Akron, Ball State, and Northern Illinois all have nine juniors and seniors. On the other end of the spectrum, Kent State has just three and Western Michigan has four.

The lone newcomer on the BGSU volleyball team is sophomore transfer Kelsey Bates. Bates, who hails from Willshire, Ohio, spent her freshman season at Syracuse before returning to her home state for this season.

Danielle Tonyan was named first team All-MAC as a sophomore in 2011, becoming the first player to earn that honor since Shari Luther in 2009. Kendra Halm, in 2006, was the last BGSU sophomore to be named first-team All-MAC and she went on to earn first team honors again as both a junior and senior.

Bowling Green has always stressed academics and Falcon volleyball has been a model of that philosophy. The 2011 BGSU volleyball team received the AVCA Academic Team Award for the 12th consecutive season, compiling a cumulative grade point average of 3.30 or better. The Falcons have the second longest streak in all of NCAA Division I and has received the award 13 times overall. Two BGSU players, Laura Avila and Kari Galen, were named Academic All-MAC a year ago, while Lindsey Butterfield, Libby Dachenhaus, Ashley Dunn, and the graduated Emily Kauth were named honorable mention.