Bowling Green State University volleyball fans got to see the Falcons in action during an exhibition game against Division II Hillsdale College at the Stroh Center Saturday.
The 289 fans in attendance made noise, but BGSU 12th-year coach Danijela Tomic would like to see more fans get louder.
“I think our fans saw the physicality and the athleticism, the talent that we have,” Tomic said. “This team deserves the support of this community.
“It is something that we are asking of everybody, to come and watch this team, and they will love what they see. This was just a preview,” she said. “We have to continue getting better and I’m just excited about the future, what is lying ahead of us because our girls are driven and motivated, they work hard, and we hope that we will reach our goals that we’ve set for ourselves.”
Goals at the top of the list are winning a Mid-American Conference championship and automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
“Our motto this year is ‘dream big.’ We have big, ambitious dreams,” Tomic said. “But to do that we just ask our players they just give us the best effort every day and play with joy and enthusiasm and have a blast while doing that.”
Against Hillsdale, BGSU won 25-11, 27-25, 25-22, and then in an extra exhibition fourth set, the Falcons came back to win, 15-13.
Hillsdale owned a commanding 17-9 lead in the second set, but the Falcons recovered, closing the final two points on consecutive kills by 5-foot-10 senior outside hitter Katelyn Meyer, an Eastwood graduate returning for her fifth season.
Hillsdale, ranked No. 16 in Division II, is the preseason favorite to win the Great Midwest Athletic Conference. A year ago, Hillsdale finished the campaign 30-5, winning the GMAC Tournament and advancing to the NCAA D-II national championship.
Tomic acknowledged that the Chargers brought a quality team gave the Falcons fits. She also liked how her team responded.
“We had a real good week of practice in two-a-days. What I liked is our attack mentality — it is something that we are talking about a lot and training a lot to the first kill mentality. I thought our defense was relentless. A lot of positive good things,” Tomic said.
“I like in the second set that we were able to come back from behind, and the same thing in the fourth set. We were behind but we were able to win that one.
“That is something we’ve been focusing on in practice, so that is good to see things that we’ve been working on transferring in a match situation.”
Indrova commands on the court
In the first three sets, 6-0 senior outside hitter Petra Indrova led the Falcons with 17 kills, and she added four more in the fourth set to finish with 21.
“Petra proved again today why she was voted the MAC Player of the Year, and why she is BGSU’s first All-American,” Tomic said.
“She’s playing with that conviction and confidence, and she has that attack mentality with our teammates. She sets the tone for the rest of the team,” she said. “Her leadership is invaluable on the court, and we are just grateful that she is on our side of the net.”
Indrova, a rare NCAA Division I six-rotation player from Jihlava, Czech Republic, was second on the team with 13 digs, behind 5-7 senior defensive specialist Yelianiz Torres, who had 24.
“Petra is a complete player. You don’t see that a lot in college volleyball, on the right side, playing the opposites in six-rotation,” Tomic said. “She is receiving, playing defense, she is hitting the front row, she’s hitting from the back row, she’s doing a lot of stuff and she’s raising the level of everybody on the team.
“We expect that from our seniors and it’s crazy that she is a senior already, but she brings a lot of value to our team. I think everybody can see that.”
Indrova credits her teammates for her ability to succeed on the court.
“I would never be able to do that without the whole 15 players that are on our team. We work really hard, and they push me in practice,” Indrova said. “I try to be a warrior and lead by example. All 16 of us are warriors. It is just fun to play with everybody.”
Torres, from Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, had a team high three aces and 5-2 senior defensive specialist Julia Walz led the team with 15 assists.
Kat Mandly, a 6-0 senior outside hitter from Perrysburg, had 12 kills, Meyer, a four-time first team All-MAC selection, finished with nine kills, 6-1 junior middle blocker Alexis Mettille had seven and 6-1 sophomore outside hitter Mia Tyler had six.
Last year, the Falcons finished 21-9 and advanced to a third consecutive MAC championship appearance.
This year’s campaign will begin at the Tennessee Classic, held in Knoxville. BGSU starts with a 10:30 a.m. matchup against Purdue on Friday, then continues with a 3 p.m. showdown with Loyola Chicago.
The opening weekend concludes at 11 a.m. on Saturday, when the Falcons take the court against host Tennessee.
The Boilermakers qualified for the NCAA regional finals last season, ending the season ranked No. 9 in the RPI. The Volunteers advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament and concluded the season at 28th in the RPI.
“We are starting with a bang, playing against Purdue,” Tomic said. “It’s a real tough opening weekend, but that is designed deliberately to really give us the opportunities to compete against the best in the nation and also playing to win.
“We had a tough preseason schedule last year and we didn’t win some matches that we felt we should have, and we scheduled probably even a little bit better non-conference schedule to give ourselves that opportunity. We are working hard. and our team knows what our expectations are.
“Purdue is ranked, and we are playing three top 25 teams (non-league schedule). I don’t think we have any easy match on our non-conference schedule,” Tomic continued. “That is the mindset that we are going into every match expecting that we have a chance to win.
“There is never a guarantee what the outcome is going to be, but our mindset has to be that we are prepared, that we are ready and that we can compete against anybody but playing also to win.”