Who’s got it better than us? The Bowling Green State University women’s basketball team clinched the Mid-American Conference regular season title Saturday. It was a tremendous moment in the program’s history. It made me reflect on just how far the school’s athletics department has come in the last four years.
Three years ago, the women’s program was struggling, to put it mildly. The team had at least a share of last place in the conference standings for the last three years, which was reason enough for the media to pick them to finish 11th out of 12 MAC teams this year. But these Falcons are making even the most optimistic fans eat crow.
They not only surpassed expectations — they lapped them multiple times over. Fans would have been happy to see the women finish in the top 10. Instead, they finished ahead of everyone else, now the #1 seed in the MAC tournament and primed at a chance of returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2011.
When I asked Fralick how vindicating it feels to prove the media, the coaches and the doubters wrong, the always-modest coach wouldn’t use the question as a chance to say I told you so.
“To be honest I’ve never cared where we were picked. I don’t think we’ve ever talked about it as a team. That stuff to me doesn’t tell a story,” Fralick said in a virtual press conference Saturday night.
“Our mission has never been to prove people wrong. Our mission has been to get better.”
And women’s basketball isn’t the only sport feasting on the fruit of its labors. After a few different coaches and less-than-stellar seasons, the men’s basketball team became the best show in town under alum Michael Huger. The pre-COVID Stroh Center was the hardest place in the MAC to win a game. With the best player in program history Justin Turner and a four-game win streak that most recently came through Akron, the men might finally break the long NCAA drought that’s plagued BGSU basketball for 53 years.
The men’s ice hockey team is not unforgotten either. About a decade removed from when it was questioned whether or not the program would exist, the Falcons are thriving. Alum Ty Eigner took over the reins and has the team playing like one of the ten best in the country. After a respectable sweep of Alabama-Huntsville, the question on fans’ minds is which seed the team will get in the NCAA tournament.
Even volleyball in its COVID-delayed season is a MAC-best 11-0, off to it’s best start in a decade. The team most recently went on the road and swept Kent State in two five-set thrillers.
This isn’t to say any of it will be easy. The women’s hoops team is not invincible. The No. 1 seed has only won the MAC women’s basketball tournament two of the last seven years. Hockey has its limitations, as evidenced by the team’s sweeping defeats at the hands of Minnesota State and Lake Superior State. An early round exit from the WCHA tournament could be the difference between a second NCAA appearance in three years or an early spring break.
The Falcon men will be a particular challenge, as evidenced by the team’s six-game losing streak in February. They will more than likely run into rival Toledo, who last week secured the No.1 seed for the MAC Tournament. The Rockets themselves are trying to end their own tournament drought, one that has haunted them since 1980. But it was against these Rockets that the Falcons ended their losing streak, so anything is possible.
Now BGSU has the chance to capitalize on three, even four sports. Again, I’ll ask: who could possibly have it better than us?