UNIVERSITY PARK, PA. - The Bowling Green State University volleyball team's magical run continued Friday night as the Falcons became the first team in program history to win an NCAA Tournament match. Bowling Green turned back a valiant effort from Yale to beat the Bulldogs in five sets 16-25, 25-15, 25-21, 13-25, 15-11.
It was the third consecutive Bowling Green match that went five sets and the Falcons improved to 9-1 in five-setters this year, winning the last nine in a row. With the victory, BGSU gets the rare opportunity to face the No. 1 team in the country, Penn State, on its home floor Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Bowling Green used an 8-2 run to overcome a 9-7 fifth set deficit as the Falcons overcame adversity time-and-again throughout the match. Down by two points, Yale opened the door with a service error and junior outside hitter Lindsey Butterfield stepped right through with back-to-back kills to put the Falcons ahead 10-9.
Yale settled things down after a timeout with a block to tie the score again but Leah Shaw followed with a kill and a solo block to put the Falcons ahead for good. The Bulldogs' McHaney Carter stopped the bleeding momentarily with a kill but Paige Penrod answered with a kill and Kaitlyn Skinner and Laura Avila combined on a block for a 14-11 lead. Fittingly, Penrod finished the match with a kill for the 15-11 win.
Penrod ended with a match-high 16 kills and was one of five Falcons with at least 10 digs, ending with 13. Butterfield had 14 kills and Leah Shaw posted 10 and eight blocks. Ashley Dunn had a match-high 24 digs and Avila handed out 43 assists.
The Falcons hit over .250 in each of those sets and had 35 kills, 14 more than Yale. In the second, Bowling Green had six blocks, rebounding from posting just one in the first set. Penrod posted eight kills in the third and the Falcons dug 28 balls as Yale hung close but never took the lead.
In the fourth, Yale took control as Bowling Green began to struggle offensively as it did in the first set. The Falcons had only five kills in the frame and Yale scored 14 of the final 17 points. The Bulldogs appeared to have all the momentum heading into the fifth.
Early on, neither team could grab control of the set until Dunn had an ace and Shaw and Tonyan paired up for a block for a 7-5 Bowling Green lead. Yale came right back with four consecutive points, forcing the Falcons to call a timeout behind 9-7. That's when the Falcons rallied behind the 8-2 run to win the match.
For the match, Bowling Green hit just .122, the team's lowest attack percentage in a win all year. However, the Falcons overcame that by posting 80 digs, 14 blocks and seven service aces. Yale, a team that ranked second in the country in digs, had two fewer than the Falcons, along with three fewer blocks and one less ace.
The victory was the first NCAA Tournament win for any BGSU Athletics team since the women's basketball team advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in 2007. Not only was it the volleyball team's first NCAA Tournament victory ever, it was the first set victory. The Falcons' only other appearance was a three-set loss to Wisconsin in 1991.