It’s time for the NCAA Tournament. For the first time since 2012, and just the third time in program history, the BGSU Falcons are in attendance with their eyes on the prize.
The Falcons, fresh off of a MAC Tournament Victory and a 22-1 season, look to take on the 18-1 Big Sky Champion Weber State Wildcats. With an opportunity to take on the No. 1 team in the country Wisconsin Badgers on the line, here are the keys for the Falcons to fly high over their first round foe.
Start Hot, Stay Hot
The Falcons’ offense has been the key for me all season long. With all the strong arms the Falcons have had this year, it’s going to be important that they don’t allow the power to cool down after the week off. Petra Indrova and Katelyn Meyer were named to the All-MAC First Team because of the power they brought to the table. The team also features strong arms like Katie Kidwell, Jacqueline Askin and Katrin Trebichavska, who will all be looked upon to make key plays for the Falcons.
The Falcons as a team this season are hitting at .248% and held opponents to a .166%. The Wildcats are similar, as they held opponents in the Big Sky to hitting at a .165%, while hitting themselves at a .242%. This will be a match where everything counts, and the offense will need to be strong to have the Falcons move along.
Against Western Michigan in the MAC Tournament, the Falcons got started in set one hitting at a .457% and finished the night at a .305%. Getting the jitters out early and starting to go on long runs are the Falcons’ specialties, and may be secret weapons in this tournament.
Keep it Clean
There is a popular phrase on the television game show “Press Your Luck,” which is: “No Whammies, No Whammies''. Essentially, they don’t want this little red goblin thing to come up, as it is essentially an error which will take away what you have won and earned. This will NEED to be important throughout the tournament, regardless of who the Falcons play.
Over the past few matches, the Falcons have pushed teams to the limit, and have been able to pull away, as they have forced teams to make mistakes, and in essence, shoot themselves in the foot. This is a very intelligent Falcon team with multiple players having been named to the Academic All-MAC Team during their time at BGSU. That will need to be shown on the court. In tournaments like this, it can all come down to the simplest things and the right mindset. Defense can win championships; but the team that commits the most errors will be fighting from behind the eight-ball right away.
The Wildcats have committed 338 attack errors this season as well as 122 service errors, while allowing 399 attack errors and 139 service errors. The Big Sky Conference features some of the best serving teams in the nation and the Wildcats are one of the few teams in this tournament that have more service aces than they do service faults (131-122 respectively).
For a team that lives and dies at the service line like the Wildcats, BGSU needs to force this team to play at the Falcons’ tempo and catch them off guard. Taking advantage of these errors can help the Falcons find momentum, which is how they really got rolling in the MAC Championship game against Western Michigan, when the Falcons got rolling on an 8-2 run to start Set 1.
Embrace the moment, but don’t let it get too big
As I mentioned, this is just the third time in BGSU history the Falcons have made this tournament. However, this is the second time head coach Danijela Tomic has made it to the big dance with Bowling Green. Her last time was in 2012 when the Falcons won a match before being sent home in the second round. The Wildcats are traveling to the tournament for just the second time in their history, with the last time being in 1988, before any of the players in this tournament were born.
It’s a big stage for both teams, who are not represented in the Power Five Conferences (BIG 10, ACC, SEC, BIG 12 and PAC-12). It’s an atmosphere for these programs to get national attention and have some of the best collegiate athletes in the country on the other side of the net. It can be overwhelming, but this is where the benefit of having a seasoned coach on your side to make the moment smaller is a good thing. Tomic has been here before, but Weber State head coach Jeremiah Larson has not.
It’s going to be important for the Falcons to enjoy this moment and play every point as if it were the last, something that they have been doing all season. But the Falcons can’t automatically be looking at Wisconsin, or any other team in this tournament. They need to be looking at Weber State, what they bring to the table, and take it one set at a time.
Take a breath and play as if you were in the backyard with your friends in the summer. Be relaxed, but focused, calm and collected. As Tomic has said in the past, “Play the game how we want to play it.” If the Falcons can do that, not a team in this tournament can beat them.
The Falcons will take on the Weber State Wildcats at 7 p.m. EST on Wednesday. Coverage can be found on ESPN3 OR on mixlr.com/bgrso-falconradio where the Bowling Green Radio Sports Organization will be on the call as they have all season long with a pregame starting at 6:40 EST.