Chemistry helps BG Volleyball succeed

Jason A. Dixon and Jason A. Dixon

Start with a charismatic first-year assistant filling in for someone with more than 30 years of head coaching experience while she accompanies the USA National Sitting Volleyball Team in Athens, Greece until Oct. 1.

Add six returning players with experience, attitude, athleticism, intelligence and loyalty.

Mix in a generous portion of motivation and infuse with five newcomers.

These elements have merged together to become an impeccable formula of success for the Bowling Green State volleyball team, which has won five consecutive matches – their longest win streak since 2001 – after starting the season 0-3.

“This is the best team chemistry ever,” sophomore Chrissy Gothke said after yesterday’s practice. “We have the perfect combination of players and Coach (Mark) Hardaway has been like an continuation of Coach (Denise) Van De Walle, and everyone has responded really well to him.”

Hardaway, who has nine years of coaching experience and some familiarity with the BG volleyball program from serving as an assistant in 1991 and 1992, said the team was due for this kind of performance.

“This started last spring with Coach Van De Walle and the returning players making a commitment,” Hardaway said. “I think the players were disappointed coming off last season and made a commitment to improve as a team.

“I think we have a good mix with some experienced upperclassmen and they’ve been very good with how they’ve handled the pressure,” he said. “They’ve been very good at leading by example, helping the freshmen along and on the other side of that, the freshmen have been good at coming in, working hard and listening to that advice.”

The Falcons (5-3) look to continue the maturation process when they play host team Wright State (0-4) to open the Raider Challenge Friday at 7:30 p.m.

BG will face Wake Forest (5-1) and Morehead State (1-5) to conclude the tournament on Sunday.

Hardaway said the competition will be good for the team.

“Wright State and Morehead State are two very good teams and Wake Forest is probably the second best team we’ll face this year, outside of Florida,” he said. “So these games will help us get ready for conference play.”

Sixth-year head coach Joylynn Tracy and the Raiders are led by Sarah Poling’s 3.47 kills per game and Tiffin McKenzie’s 2.73 kills.

The Demon Deacons are returning from a 3-0 sweep over Tennessee Martin at the Lady Vols Classic on Saturday.

Fifth-year head coach Valorie Baker said communication and ball control will be the key for her team’s success.

“We go into each match preparing the same way and I don’t think our players will be overlooking anyone this weekend,” she said. “I think Bowling Green is a very respectable program. This is our first time playing them, but I think it will be some good competition for us.”

MSU and second-year head coach Jamie Gordon are coming off a conference title last season, but the team returns with eight freshmen and sophomores.

Senior Melissa Mohr, who won tournament MVP honors last weekend and was named Mid-American Conference Player Of The Week, said the team is feeling confident heading into the tournament.

“The season has just started, but I think we’re showing people how good we can be,” she said. “We still have a lot to work on as the season goes on, but we’re playing pretty well right now.”

The Falcons return home Sept. 24 to open MAC play against the Toledo Rockets.