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Published: Thursday, 10/11/2007

Sidelines: Bobcats rule NLL again Bowling Green captures fourth straight league crown

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Bowling Green s Ashley Horak spikes against Southview s Ashley Mierzwiak, left, and Amanda Schuster. The Bobcats are 20-1. Bowling Green s Ashley Horak spikes against Southview s Ashley Mierzwiak, left, and Amanda Schuster. The Bobcats are 20-1.
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BOWLING GREEN Winning the Northern Lakes League championship has become an expectation for the volleyball team at Bowling Green.

It is more than just an annual goal. It is a mission.

The Bobcats started this season as the favorites to win a fourth straight NLL title.

That mission was accomplished Tuesday with a three-game victory over Northview.

Bowling Green's Kathy Bibler, left, and Lindsey Nelson hit the floor to make a play. Bowling Green's Kathy Bibler, left, and Lindsey Nelson hit the floor to make a play.
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We re just carrying on the tradition, said Ashley Horak, a 6-foot-2 senior and middle-hitter. It s not that we weren t expecting to, but we want to go out saying that for all four years we were in high school we contributed to it [title streak].

A victory in the league finale tonight against Anthony Wayne will give the Bobcats a 14-0 NLL mark, which will represent the first undefeated league record for BG since 2004.

For me it s a big deal, said Katie Stoots, a 5-9 senior outside hitter. I think it s a big part of high school being able to say, Yeah, I was a part of that[undefeated league season].

With seven returning letter winners from a team that shared last year s title with Northview, the Bobcats have performed up to their expectations.

BG (20-1) has won 15 straight matches since an early-season loss at the Celina Invitational to Marion Local, the state s top-ranked Division IV team.

I knew that we were going to be tough, BG fourth-year coach Deb Coan said. I knew that we had a good core group of girls, and I personally think that it is the best team Bowling Green has seen in a long time.

 Katie Stoots celebrates a point for The Bobcats, who have win four straight NLL titles. Katie Stoots celebrates a point for The Bobcats, who have win four straight NLL titles.
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We have experience with five seniors and two juniors [back from last year s championship team]. Six of those seven returning players have been with me since 2005.

Horak and fellow senior Kathy Bibler give the Bobcats a formidable tandem of middle hitters. They rank No. 1 and No. 2 on the team in kills, with Horak leading the way with 201 kills and 52 blocks. Bibler has provided 142 kills and 30 blocks.

They give a lot of other teams fits because it s very hard to read and defend the middle attack and most teams don t have two amazing middles and we have two, Coan said. The teams we play don t ever get a break because they have to be prepared for our offense.

Not only do Horak and Bibler create trouble for BG opponents with their net play, their presence in the front court has benefited the outside hitters, Stoots and sophomore Ashley Dunn.

Stoots has registered 148 kills and 137 digs while Dunn has provided 137 kills and 137 digs.

Up to now we ve always had great defense, great setting, and our hitting has been pretty darn good, but this year I would say our hitting is pretty awesome, Coan said. We ve really picked up that aspect of the game.

Everybody on our team can hit and that s what makes it so hard for other teams to defend us.

The Bobcats have also been steady elsewhere on the court, with setter Lindsey Nelson (549 assists, 33 aces), a junior who has started every game since her freshman season, and senior back row players Lauren Rex (266 digs, 30 aces) and Danielle Gerwin (88 digs).

Gerwin said the key to the successful run is simple.

It s all about teamwork, Gerwin said. It s all about chemistry. We care about each other a lot and it reflects on the court and off the court.

Last year, the Bobcats lost in the Division II district final to Celina. Bowling Green has moved up to Division I this season. But moving up hasn t changed the team s goal of getting past the district for the first time since 1980, when the Bobcats lost in the regional semifinals.

Even though we were moved up to D-I this year, it just makes it that much tougher that we have to work to get that much further in the tournament, Stoots said.

Coan is hoping experience will help at tournament time.

They want to make it to state. They want to go to state and they re pretty determined about that, Coan said. Last year s team was still pretty darn good, but

I think this year we ve evolved. We ve always been a defensive team and we ve had an amazing setter who runs the offense, but we ve never been that team that consistently hits the ball over the net.

This year, with that experience, we re that team that consistently puts the ball away.

Contact Donald Emmons at:demmons@theblade.comor 419-724-6302



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