MAC MVP Meyer leads Falcons to NCAA tourney

J. Patrick Eaken

Bowling Green State University 5-foot-10 outside hitter Katelyn Meyer (Eastwood), a junior from Pemberville, was awarded the Mid-American Conference volleyball tournament MVP award following the Falcons’ MAC championship at the Stroh Center last week. 

In the first match of the tournament, a five-set semifinal win over Miami, Meyer totaled a team-high 19 kills for the Falcons. In the four-set championship against Western Michigan (25-17, 16-25, 25-22, 25-20), Meyer tallied 16 kills. 

BG coach Damijela Tomic said the MAC championship was atonement for a 2019 league championship loss, plus it provided the Falcons with an automatic bid to the NCAA Division I tournament.

“We had a heartbreaking loss in 2019 here, at the Stroh (Center) — losing in the first set and it always leaves a bitter taste in your mouth losing like that, but we proved that we (belonged),” coach Damijela Tomic said. “This is a very different team. Like I’ve said from the beginning, we have the most talent that we have ever had.

“We are going to enjoy this thing. I asked the players to enjoy every moment and then we have to refocus start preparing for the NCAA. This is the second time in my nine years — we did it in 2012, my first season at BGSU and we made history — we beat Yale in the first round. 

“This is the best team I have ever coached in my career and making it this year where there are only 48 teams in the tournament is even more special. The approach is going to be the same. Whoever is playing on the other side of the net, we play BG VB, and we play together, and we have enough talent and skill. We have all the pieces to get an NCAA win or NCAA wins,” Tomic continued.

The 22-1 Falcons will return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012 and face Weber State on April 14 in the first round. Weber State was champions of the Big Sky conference following an 18-1 campaign, including being 15-1 in conference play. The one loss for the Wildcats came back on March 7 in a 3-1 final against Northern Arizona.

“We are so excited. We have been waiting for a chance to get in here and Coach said this is the best team she’s had so we’re ready to give it all we’ve got,” Meyer said.

“It just shows all the hard work we put in this season. We started last semester,” Meyer continued. “We knew we had all this time to prepare for it and every day it has been just so much effort. We never took a day off. We are always working hard in the gym and it just shows that all the hard work that everyone has put in.

“This has been such a long season because everything is different this year. I think the main thing that I would think is that I would have my team’s back the whole time. If I was struggling, they always had my back. It was like, ‘We are going to cover you just as hard.’ I’m so proud of our team for all the support we give each other — they support me, and I support them, and we just have a good balance. I’m really proud of everyone.”

The Orange and Brown began the season with an 18-match win streak, setting both the program record for best start to a season as well as the BGSU athletic department record, a mark that had stood for almost 57 years. 

The 18-match win streak also broke the record for the longest win streak in program history at any point during a season. Additionally, the team compiled a 20-win season for the second consecutive year and the first back-to-back 20-win seasons since 2006-2008. 


‘Fearless’ Katelyn

Tomic says Meyer was a big reason the team has had the success it has. Meyer hit 1,000 career kills in the final weekend of the regular season, and this year she has 327 kills (3.8 per set), 35 blocks and is credited for 346½ points.

“What else to say about Katelyn, right? She has grown so much,” Tomic said. “Everybody knows when they see Katelyn play once that she can jump — she is an unbelievable athlete. She has gifts that are God given, right? 

“The type of teammate she is, how hard she works, and the energy and enthusiasm that she brings to the game, you can’t coach that. You cannot teach that. I mean, she loves to play for her team. She has become truly a BG warrior — that is what it is. She goes and she attacks. The stuff that she does now as a junior, she is doing it at an elite level. Out of our system, when she is off the net, when she is inside, she just goes,” Tomic said.

“I mean, she was hitting today (MAC championship) and yesterday over the block. What do you do, right? She’s fearless. Just fearless. And, she is going hard. I told her she earned this and I’m so happy for her and to have a local girl, it is even more special. But she is outstanding, she is just special. Yes, (she has) skills, yes (she is a) volleyball player, but Katelyn as a person, I wish we could clone her and have more of her.”

Meyer said the team was elated holding high the MAC championship trophy after the win over Western Michigan, and she credited the seniors on the team.

“The seniors did so much for us this year. That moment, we were all so proud of each other,” Meyer said. “We put so much work into this year and the seniors just led in every category. Even when they are struggling, they are leading on and off the court. They have risen with us.”

The entirety of the NCAA tournament will take place in Omaha, Nebraska and will consist of 48 teams with the first round being played at the Chi Health Center Arena on April 14. The match for the Falcons is set for a 7 p.m. start time. For the Falcons, it marks the program’s third appearance in the NCAA Tournament with the previous two being in 1991 and 2012. 

In 1991 the Falcons faced Wisconsin in the first round with the Badgers having the win. Bowling Green then returned to the tournament in 2012 under the leadership of Tomic and tallied the first NCAA Tournament victory in program history. Facing Yale in the first round, the Orange and Brown fought to a five-set victory to advance to the second round to face top ranked Penn State. 

“That was our goal from the beginning. Going into this (MAC) finals match, I told them that we have written an amazing story so far. We closed the chapter of the regular season last week and this is a new chapter that we will finish, and we will win the championship today, and then we are going to Omaha to write another chapter, and we are not just happy to be there,” Tomic said.

“We have the quality of a team that can go and at our level I don’t know how far we can go. I just think we are really good, and this is a team that is going there to continue winning and continue writing this amazing story. We are excited and we are fired up.

“I’m so happy for this team. I wanted it for this group of women,” Tomic continued. “They’ve given us so much joy — not just us, but the coaching staff all year long in the toughest year of our life and to do what we have done all season, 22-1, and play the way we did today. I believe that we can do this, and I wanted them to believe in themselves and their teammates, and they did. We played like champions today.

“Why are we so good this year? Because our practices are so competitive and so hard, and we go hard against each other at this level and now I had to keep reminding them throughout the season, ‘Remember how hard you practiced this week against each other? That is all you need to do, like when we play us, we play to our standard, we play BG VB, and when we do that, we are very hard to beat.’”

Tomic said after the championship she did not believe her team played its’ best in the MAC semifinal, even though they got the win. She said that is a good sign when you can still win and not play your best game.

“Yesterday (semifinals), we won, and the interesting thing we didn’t hit one of our benchmarks and we won. Our team knew and I don’t think we could have pulled them off like we did yesterday in the semifinals, and you saw how ready and prepared our team came in that first set. It was clean, it was playing at a high, high level, and execution, tactical decisions, and then the unity that our team, I believe, is a model of how a team functions when a team plays for each other. They love each other.”

(— includes material from BGSU SID press releases)






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