Western Michigan volleyball came up short in the MAC Championship match, falling 3-1 to Bowling Green and likely ending the Broncos’ season.
“Hats off to a really, really good Bowling Green team that really just fought every point,” head coach Colleen Munson said after the match. “They were aggressive, they were scrappy, they blocked very well, they served very well. They did some things that they needed to do to be successful.”
The first set got out of hand in a hurry for WMU as Bowling Green got out to a 5-0 lead and never looked back. Another 5-0 run for the Falcons later in the set made it 20-10 and Bowling Green would hit .457 to just .163 for the Broncos in set one. Bowling Green took the first set, 25-17.
It was a different look for the Broncos in set two, with a much stronger attack leading to a .317 attack percentage. By the end of set two, Kaley Smith and Mairead Boyle were both at 10 digs for WMU, who recovered defensively after getting blitzed in the first set to hold the Falcons to a .073 attack percentage in set two. WMU took the second set, 25-16.
Set three was controlled by both defenses as the teams went back and forth with several long rallies. Bowling Green’s Blockers would ultimately make the difference in the set, coming up with six blocks to contribute to the Broncos’ 11 attack errors in the set. With an attack percentage of just .156, the Broncos dropped set three to Bowling Green, 25-22.
Set four went back-and-fourth until it was 14-14, when Bowling Green went on a roll and scored eight of the next 10 points to take a 22-16 lead. The Broncos could not slow down the Falcons’ attack, as BGSU had a .514 attack percentage in the fourth set to win 25-20 and secure its first MAC Championship since 2012.
Rachel Bontrager had another strong performance after a slow start to the match to record 21 kills on a .245 attack percentage. Logan Case added 54 assists and 13 digs to the Broncos’ cause and both Bontrager and Case were named to the MAC All-Tournament team.
“We’ve grown accustomed to them having performance(s) like that,” said Munson of Bontrager and Case’s play in the tournament. “Enough can’t be said for their growth and their development in our system this season. They came to practice every day to improve and they did what they needed to do and their teammates responded.”
Kaley Smith had a match-best 24 digs and Meredith Phillips added a season-high 17 kills. Maggie King and Charley Andrews both had 11 kills to round out WMU’s double-digit scorers.
Bowling Green was led by Petra Indrova with 17 kills, 12 digs and three service aces, while Katelyn Meyer was named MAC Tournament Most Valuable Player with 16 kills and a .371 attack percentage after recording 19 kills in the semifinal. Jacqueline Askin rounded out the Falcons’ double-digit scorers with 15 kills and Hanna Laube recorded 45 kills in the win.
The Broncos could still make the NCAA tournament as an at-large bid. The field is announced Sunday, and the last MAC team to earn an at-large bid to the tournament was Miami (OH) in 2016.
“It’s out of our hands (now),” said Munson of the team’s chances at making the NCAA tournament. “I think we can be hopeful, but we just want to help celebrate Bowling Green’s automatic bid from our conference and anything we get beyond that would be a bonus.”