KALAMAZOO, Mich. – The top-seeded Western Michigan volleyball team outlasted No. 6 seed Bowling Green in a five-set thriller on Monday night (25-16, 25-21, 14-25, 15-25, 15-7) in front of a raucous crowd of 2,142 at University Arena to capture its seventh Mid-American Conference Tournament Championship and punch its ticket to the 2023 NCAA Volleyball Championship.
The victory is the 20th in a row for Western Michigan, its longest winning streak since 1983. The Broncos also collected their 30th win of the season, making it their first 30-win campaign since that same 1983 season, during which they went 32-1 and made it all the way to the Regional Final of the NCAA Tournament. WMU is just the second NCAA Division I team to reach 30 wins in 2023.
FINAL SCORE: No. 1 Western Michigan 3, No. 6 Bowling Green 2
LOCATION: University Arena (Kalamazoo, Mich.)
RECORDS: Western Michigan (30-2) | Bowling Green (19-13)
Following the contest, the Mid-American Conference announced the All-Tournament Team, which was headlined by WMU senior setter Logan Case, who was named the Tournament MVP. Joining Case on the All-Tournament Team were fellow seniors Keona Salesman and Andelyn Simkins.
Case handed out 44 assists and collected six digs on the night to surpass a pair of career milestones, becoming the first player in Western Michigan history to eclipse 5,000 assists. She also surpassed 1,000 career digs to become the first Bronco to have at least 4,000 assists and 1,000 digs in her career.
Salesman led the Western Michigan attack with 18 kills on an even .300 hitting percentage. In the fifth set, the Coldwater, Mich., native reached a milestone of her own, as she recorded the 1,000th kill of her collegiate career.
Joining Salesman in double-figures was Maggie King, who buried 15 kills in her final home match as a Bronco.
Western Michigan also used the service line as a weapon, tying its season high with 10 service aces. Abi Wilcoxson served up a career-high three aces to lead the way, while King, Simkins and Anna Calcagno notched two apiece.
On the defensive end, Simkins collected a team-high 20 digs. With 1,661 career digs, the Schoolcraft, Mich., native moved up to fourth on WMU’s career digs list. Reeghan Boyer chipped in with eight digs for the Brown and Gold.
The Broncos also notched eight blocks for the evening, led by four blocks apiece by King (1 solo, 3 assists) and Mary Clare Brusek (four assists).
Holding a 5-4 edge in the early going of set one, Western Michigan ripped off eight consecutive points to open up a 13-4 cushion. Bowling Green got as close as six, including at 21-15, before WMU rattled off four of the next five to claim the first set. The Broncos hit a blistering .500 in the opening frame.
A four-point spurt helped the Broncos turn a 6-5 deficit into a 9-6 lead in the second set. Later in the frame, the two squads traded 4-0 runs, with BGSU’s briefly giving the visitors a 15-14 edge, and WMU’s response putting the Brown and Gold back on top, 18-15. The Falcons got back level at 19-19, but Western Michigan countered with six of the next eight to put the set away and take a 2-0 cushion into the break.
The Falcons got out to an early lead in the third frame, building a 9-4 advantage and never looking back, as the visitors extended the match into a fourth set.
The fourth set played out in similar fashion to the third, as Bowling Green once again grabbed an early lead at 10-3. Western Michigan got as close as five on a couple of occasions, but the Falcons kept WMU at bay to send the match into a championship deciding fifth frame.
It was Western Michigan who seized early momentum in the fifth, as it tallied the first four points of the decisive stanza. BGSU battled back to within one, 5-4, but a King kill halted the run and ignited a 10-3 match-closing run for the Brown and Gold to capture its first MAC Tournament Championship and NCAA Tournament berth since 2014.
With their spot in the 2023 NCAA Volleyball Championship secured, the Broncos now await their NCAA Tournament first round matchup. The 2023 NCAA Volleyball Selection Show is set for Sunday, November 26, at 6 pm on ESPN.