Perrysburg’s Mandly welcomes Falcons’ international flavor


This year’s Bowling Green State University team is it is getting taller, and it is getting more international.

Returning is senior 6-foot outside hitter Petra Indrova from Jihlava, Czech Republic, 6-0 sophomore opposite hitter and setter Lauryn Hovey from Waterloo, Ontario, 6-4 sophomore middle blocker Jessica Andrews from Guelph, Ontario, and 5-8 redshirt freshman defensive specialist Isabelle Laube from Burlington, Ontario.

New to the program are 5-6 freshman defensive specialist Benedetta “Benny” Marcon from Spinea, Italy and 6-0 freshman outside hitter Edyta Waclawczyk from Katowice, Poland.

At the other extreme is one of the Falcons’ already established standouts, 6-0 junior outside hitter Kat Mandly, who is not only an American, but she is also a Wood County native from Perrysburg.

Mandly understands the value of bringing international recruits to continue building a program that will be defending a Mid-American Conference championship and earned a berth to the NCAA Division I tournament last year.

“It helps that we have Petra coming from Czech Republic and the Canadians coming over, so we have a little bit of balance going on, and Petra knows how everything went when she first got here,” Mandly said.

“So, she knows how to take those young girls coming from across the ocean, help them out figure out how to translate everything and keep a cool head going through the biggest changes of their life basically.”

For Mandly, it was a no-brainer to play her volleyball at BGSU.

“That means the world to me. One of the biggest reasons I chose BG is that it is 20 minutes away from my hometown,” Mandly said.

“My parents can come to every single match, my grandparents can come to every single match and for them to be able to come and watch us play and win, and win championships, it is the best thing in the world.”

Preparing for all contingencies

However, the international stage may have taken a blow when Indrova went down injured during an open media practice Wednesday. At the time, it was unknown how serious her injuries would be, but coach Danijela Tomic says her team is prepared.

“We have all the pieces to be very good again,” Tomic said. “How I as a coach see it every year is putting the puzzle together, and we need every piece.

“We still have our depth, we have our talent, and we are all about doing things together. We have enough players to step up and go for hope.”

Tomic stole the phrase, “Go for hope,” from Ann Hovey, who is Lauryn Hovey’s mother. Ann Hovey spoke to the team one day earlier and now what she had to say seems to matter even more.

“(Ann Hovey) talked to us about resilience and grace, and I said, ‘How appropriate,’” Tomic said.

“One of the phrases that she used was, ‘Go for hope,’ and so we are all going to be hopeful and continue working hard and talk a lot about what’s in our control, what is not in our control, and just continue to focus what is in our control and go for hope.”

Winning and messaging

Mandly says life’s lessons are as much a part of BGSU volleyball as winning is, but winning remains a top priority.

“Our coach always talks about not wanting to say ‘defending the MAC championship or MAC title’ because we’re not defending anything,” Mandly said. “We’re just playing a new season. Our goal is always to win.

“Our coaches always talk about being a good learner, being prepared to fail before you grow, and that is a big part of our process when we are in practice is fail before you can learn.

“She’s just a great coach, she’s a great person, and she is always about learning herself. She is constantly reading for us, like articles, doing research on how she can improve her coaching game so she can be a better coach for us,” Mandly continued.

“I think that’s the biggest aspect of a coach teaching young women to grow into players and the people that they are going to be for the rest of their life.”

Tomic says even with the return of several starters, she cannot predict what the future holds for her team, and she likes it that way.

“What happened yesterday has no correlation to what happened today, and last season is last season,” Tomic said.

“Even if you add only one new team member, the team changes. Even if you don’t add new players, say everybody comes back, they are different people, so it started from the beginning with the success and history we’ve had the last several years.

“We always aim to compete for championships — the last five years we competed in the MAC championship match — we didn’t win every one but we competed. We were on that stage and those are our goals and going further in the NCAA.

“It starts with the big picture. We always have that end in mind, but ‘What do you do today? How do we win today?’ That is the messaging that we have and, to quote John Wooden, ‘How do we make each day your masterpiece?’”

Earlier in the week, the team welcomed fans to the Stroh Center for a “Dream Big” afternoon that included a recap of the 2023 BGVB European Tour, special remarks from alumna Isabelle Marciniak and an auction, kicking off the 2023 campaign for the Falcons.

Mandly said those fans are one of the biggest reasons why she puts importance on performing on the court.

“We love it. Our fans are the best,” Mandly said. “They mean the most to us and to everyone here, it just makes our experience better and we hope we can make the experience for them good as well.”

The Falcons will begin the 2023 season on Saturday, Aug. 19 with an exhibition against Gannon at 1 p.m. The regular season will start for the Falcons on Aug. 25 with three matches at the NKU Tournament, taking on ETSU, Ohio State and Northern Kentucky.

The Falcons will then return home to the Stroh Center for the Hampton Inn Invitational, including the home opener against 2022 NCAA Tournament participant Loyola Chicago (Aug. 31) as well as matches against Texas A&M (Sept. 1) and another 2022 NCAA Tournament participant in Wright State (Sept. 2).

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