Volleyball has big expectations for ’07

Following one of the best seasons in school history, the BGSU women’s volleyball team will look to take it one step further and win the Mid-American Conference.

But with the pressure on the Falcons to have similar success, can they duplicate it?

Last season, the Falcons fell one game short of their goal when they lost for the third time to Ohio. The team finished with a 26-6 record on the year and finished in second place in the East Division with a 13-3 record.

“It was a year of firsts for the school as we had a 17-match winning streak and a MAC conference title game appearance,” said middle hitter and blocker Stephanie Swiger. “Our expectations are higher, though, because we have almost everyone back and we have things figured out.”

Head Coach Denise Van De Walle will be returning for her 25th year at BG. She is the winningest coach in MAC history and has had a winning team 15 of the last 19 years.

In the MAC Preseason Poll, BG was picked to finish second behind Ohio in the East Division. Ohio was picked to win the MAC regular season and conference tournament.

“We now have a target on our backs,” Swiger said. “Every team will give us their best each night and we cannot have a letdown. If we can maintain the intensity, we should be very successful.”

Most of the optimism around the team is due to the fact that they will return everyone from last year’s squad except captain Chrissy Gothke. Gothke now serves as an assistant coach for the team. After huge years from Stephanie Swiger, Chelsey Meek and Corey Domek, the team will lean on the three as well as a deep bench to succeed in 2007.

“We have a very experienced team with five seniors so we know what to expect,” Swiger said. “Everyone on our bench can get hot and contribute to our success. Without Chrissy, we need to step up as a team and fill the void. So far, everyone is giving it their best.”

The team currently boasts 11 letter-winners, enabling Coach Van De Walle to recruit a small class in the offseason. That class consists of defensive specialist Alex Zlabis and setter Sam Fish. Fish will have to fill the shoes of the departed Gothke if the Falcons are to make any noise this year. Meghan Mohr will also be setting this season.

“With our team chemistry and great leaders on the court, we should see a very successful season,” Domek said. “We have an older team, but that should help us get out to a good start.”

The schedule opens up this weekend when the Falcons travel to Dayton to play Illinois on Friday. They will then play Dayton and IPFW on Saturday. The Falcons return home to host Oakland at 7 p.m. on Aug. 28.

MAC play begins on Sept. 20 when BG will travel to Miami, Ohio. The first conference home match will be played at 4 p.m. on Sept. 22.