The Blade/Jeremy Wadsworth
BOWLING GREEN — It has been a lifetime since the Bowling Green State University volleyball team played in the NCAA tournament.
“Some of our kids weren’t born the last time [BG played there],” BG volleyball coach Danijela Tomic said. “But when we found out Sunday who and where we were playing, it became real.”
The Falcons will play Ivy League champion Yale in its opening-round match today starting at 5 p.m. in University Park, Pa.
Bowling Green, which is 21-10 this season, is making just its second NCAA tournament appearance, with the first coming in 1991. But earning that bid wasn’t easy, as the Falcons had to overcome a 2-0 deficit to Northern Illinois in the Mid-American Conference tournament title match on Nov. 18 in Geneva, Ohio.
Junior Paige Penrod was named MAC tournament MVP after posting 17 kills and a career-best 28 digs in the title match, while junior Lindsey Butterfield tied her career-high with 21 kills and added 14 digs to also earn a spot on the all-tournament team.
Penrod and Butterfield were named All-MAC first team in a vote of the league’s coaches, as was junior Danielle Tonyan.
Tomic said she and the coaching staff challenged the team in the 10-minute break between the second and third sets.
“I told them, ‘We as coaches will have many chances to win the MAC,’ ” she said. “For these seniors, this would be it, and for the juniors, you never know if you’ll get back here next year.
The Falcons staved off a pair of match points to win the third set 26-24, then won the fourth set 25-20 before roaring to a 15-4 win the title-clinching fifth set.
“Before the fifth set, I said, ‘This is our season. We have prepared for this moment, and I don’t want to see an ounce of doubt,’ ” Tomic said.
“But all I can do is call timeouts, coach them, and make subs. This is their team. And I was proud of the way they were able to come back and [win] it.”
The Falcons will be tested by a Yale squad that is 18-5, including a 14-0 mark in Ivy League play.
Contact John Wagner at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6481 or on Twitter @jwagnerblade.