BOWLING GREEN - Bowling Green has ruled as queens of the courts in Northern Lakes League volleyball with seniors passing along the crown each fall.
The Bobcats' monarchy includes six straight NLL championships after BG (15-4 overall, 12-0 NLL) clinched the outright title last week.
"It's been exciting to keep the tradition alive," said senior setter Jordan Dunn. "Every year the seniors are role models. This year we're trying to do it for the younger girls. We work them hard. They may not like it now. But they'll learn what it takes."
Dunn, who is in her first season as the team's setter, said the upperclassmen pushed her when she was coming up.
Bowling Green senior Jordan Garza serves the ball. The Bobcats are 15-4 overall, 12-0 in the NLL.
"Once you become a senior that's when you understand why you have to work so hard," Dunn said. "It's not just for you; it's to keep the tradition."
But heavy losses to graduation coming into the season put that continued dominance into question. Yet Bowling Green went on an eight-game winning streak at midseason and is ranked 17th in the Division I state coaches poll.
Coach Deb Coan-Mathias said Jordan and Ashley Dunn, who are senior cousins, were the only returning starters.
"The other girls were on the bench supporting," Coan-Mathias said. "They were building the team and making it better. Now it's their turn to go out and shine."
Ashley Dunn, who is primarily an outside hitter, has earned a scholarship to play at Bowling Green State University.
"She's been a tremendous leader for us this year," Coan-Mathias said.
Senior libero Jordan Garza is in her second season starting on the varsity.
"No class wants to be the one to let the tradition down," Garza said. "So we all work as hard as we can. But it's been very exciting."
Jordan Dunn also admitted that with the departure of a talented senior class, there was pressure to maintain the supremacy.
"It's almost become an expectation of our program," Coan-Mathias agreed. "These kids feel they've paid their dues and they've helped build up the team. Now they get to go out there and show they can play and win."
Coan-Mathias, who is in her fifth season, said she has had many siblings go through the program. "They see their sisters having success and they get a taste of it and they want more of it," she said.
Coan-Mathias said many of the program's former players come back for support.
"It's fun to see the excitement of the girls who graduated and their families that still come to games," she said. "I have a lot of alumni that come back to coach the little kids at camps."
The farthest BG has advanced in the postseason under Coan-Mathias was to the Division I regional semifinals in 2007.
"We want to go far in tournament play," Jordan Dunn said. "People think we only want to win the NLL, but we also want to be recognized out of our league."
The Bobcats went 17-6 (13-1 NLL) and advanced to the district semifinals last year where they lost to Findlay.
"They were really upset with how the season ended last year," Coan-Mathias said. "They are geared up and excited. We're hoping for a rematch."
One of their losses this year also was to the Trojans.
"They are probably our biggest rival," Garza said. "We want to work as hard as we can to beat them. We want to go farther."
The team's other losses were to Mansfield Madison, Notre Dame and Kenston.
"All of those teams are ranked in the state polls and we've learned from those losses," Coan-Mathias said.
She said off-season training and a strong junior high program have been key consistencies. The high school staff works closely with the middle school coaches.
"We want to make sure we're on the same page. We do teach the coaches what they need to do to help continue to build the program," she said.
Coan-Mathias, the 2007 district coach of the year, said weight training and conditioning also are paramount.
"Overall we expect the girls to do their jobs not only in season but out of season. Whether that is going to camps or playing some level of club, we expect them to better their skills," Coan-Mathias said.
Coan-Mathias said Ashley Dunn, who is one of the top five players to ever go through the Bobcat program, has been one of the hardest workers. Dunn recorded her 1,000th career kill on Oct. 1 against Southview.
"She's an extremely consistent player," Mathias said. "She does everything well."
Jordan Dunn, a three year starter, also will play at the next level.
"She's proving to everyone that she is an extremely good setter. But I could put her in anywhere," Coan-Mathias said. "She is a great quarterback for our team."
The Dunns have played together every year since the fifth grade.
"It's been many years. So it would mean a lot go to out on a good note," Jordan said.
Senior middle hitter Paige DeVriendt will likely play at the Division II level in college.
"She has stepped up as well this year," Coan-Mathias said.
The defensive specialist is senior Olivia Goza. Sophomore Chelsea Watson, who started as freshman, is a 6-1 middle hitter.
"She's a very strong offensive and defensive player who will develop," Coan-Mathias said.
Sophomore Kelsey Lahey is the other outside hitter. Two younger players share time at right side hitter, sophomore Jenna Stoner and freshman Sarah Sikula.
"I try to tell the younger players what to work on and how to get better," Garza said. "We want to make it to the sweet 16 and hopefully even go farther than that."
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