By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
HARPERSFIELD TOWNSHIP —
In her first year as Bowling Green’s volleyball coach. Danijela Tomic led the Falcons to their first Mid-American Conference championship in 21 years Sunday at Spire Institute.
But Tomic, who made the move to Ohio after a very successful seven-year coaching stint at Florida International University, wants to make it very clear that the woman she replaced, Denise Van De Walle, deserves a lot of the credit.
Van De Walle announced her retirement following the 2011 season after 29 years at the helm of the Falcons. With a record of 527-378, she is the winningest coach in league history.
“The credit goes to Coach Van De Walle, because she recruited all these kids,” Tomic, a native of Bosnia and Herzegovina who graduated from Arkansas-Little Rock in 1999, said. “She went through the growing pains with this group. I have seven juniors and four seniors. When they started (2) years ago, these seven juniors were seven freshmen. It’s a maturation process that they have to go (through) as student-athletes. Teens usually respond well to change, and ‘m thankful that we have a great group of young ladies who have been very open to me coming in as the new coach, accepting me and the changes that I brought with my assistants (Tucker Short and Jessica Hohl, who were also new coaches with BG).”
“But again, Coach Van De Walle recruited these kids, and I’m happy for her. I know that she’s proud of this group.”
Best of the best
BG left side player Paige Penrod was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, and was joined by teammate Lindsey Butterfield, also a left side player, on the all-tournament team. Northern Illinois placed outside hitter Meghan Romo and outside hitter/middle bloker Mary Kurisch on the unit. The others were Western Michigan middle blocker Jessica Brown and Ohio University setter Abby Gilleland.
The MAC has 12 teams that play volleyball, eight of which make it to the tournament.
The four who didn’t qualify this year were the University of Buffalo, Miami (Ohio), Kent State and the University of Toledo.
It wasn’t exactly a close race for the eighth and final slot in the tournament. Buffalo and Miami finished at 4-12 in the conference, with Kent State at 3-13 and Toledo 2-12. Ball State took the eight berth with a 7-9 record.
The newest school in the conference, the University of Massachusetts, does not play volleyball.
A bit of history
This was the 29th year of the tournament. It was first played in 1980, but took the years 1983-86 off before returning.
Seven schools have won the tournament at least one time. With Bowling Green doing it this year, Western Michigan, which last won in 2000, becomes the school that has gone the longest without winning.
That doesn’t include Eastern Michigan, Toledo, Akron, Kent State or Buffalo, which have never won.
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.
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