Volleyball to battle own inexperience

Tara Jones and Tara Jones

This year’s Falcon volleyball team will have to overcome its youth as it begins it 2014 campaign.

BG returned three starters and five letter winners from last year’s team that finished 14-16 overall. The Falcons finished second in the MAC East Division with a 10-6 conference record.

The team will feature mostly underclassmen as third-year head coach Danijela Tomic returns just two seniors and no juniors. Accompanying seniors Erica Fullenkamp and Kelsey Bates will be six sophomores and five freshmen.

All of the players returned to campus for the second session of summer school, including the incoming freshmen. Tomic said this extra time together in the summer helped improve the team chemistry as well as helped make the transition for freshmen easier.

“We are really fortunate that we can bring our freshmen to summer school,” Tomic said. “It helps with the transition because … it would be so hard and it’s hard for me to imagine having them come last week when we started practice, meeting the new teammates, meeting the new coaching staff and then get right into the full semester and competition.”

She said the freshmen’s transitions have been as smooth as they could be.

“We always expect freshmen to be a little homesick … this is a big change for them,” she said. “BG just in general has been such a great support system that the parents feels comfortable and safe when they leave their children here in Bowling Green, so it takes just a little bit to get over that homesickness, but they’re all doing really well.”

Freshman Paige O’Connor arrived on campus in the spring, allowing her even more time to learn BG’s style of play. She said the hardest part of her transition is managing time between both her schoolwork and volleyball practice.

“It was hard adjusting at first, but … this team really brought me in and I felt like family right away with them,” she said.

Fullenkamp said all of the freshmen are fitting really well into their system and she is excited to see what they can bring to the team.

Tomic agreed, saying the team has blended together very well.

“The team has bonded really fast,” Tomic said. “It’s been just great to see how … the five new freshman fit with the group of returners.”

This season the Falcons will play in four invitationals before kicking off MAC play. Their first tournament, the Hampton Inn Invitational, will take place in BG on Aug. 29 and 30. The Stroh Center will host Dayton, Pittsburgh and Middle Tennessee.

Then, BG will enter MAC play, a conference the Falcons love according to Fullenkamp.

“The MAC is a really great conference for volleyball because on any given night any team can win any game,” Fullenkamp said. “That’s what’s awesome about our conference. There’s not necessarily a couple of powerhouse schools. Each year it’s up in the air who can win the conference, so I think that’s what we really like about this conference.”

The games the Falcons are looking forward to the most, however, are home games. Beginning their season at the Stroh Center with the Hampton Inn Invitational will add an element of comfort for the Falcons being able to play for the first time in front of their family and fans, O’Connor said. Tomic agreed with O’Connor and said it was one of the team’s goals to get the Stroh into the top 25 of average attendance.

“The atmosphere that our fans create in the Stroh Center helps our team tremendously and I want us to have a home court advantage,” Tomic said. “I want teams in the MAC and non-conference to hate to come here because of our fans and how loud it is.”