Danielle Tonyan expected things to change around the Bowling Green State volleyball program last spring when head coach Denise Van De Walle retired after 29 seasons.
“I really loved our old coach,” said Tonyan, a former McHenry player who is a junior outside hitter for the NCAA Division I Falcons. “I was really bummed when she said she was retiring.”
The arrival of new coach Danijela Tomic from Florida International was an immediate shock to the system.
“We all had an open mind about the situation,” Tonyan said. “We all had to adapt quickly. She came in and changed just about everything, down to the way I placed my hands on a serve. It was a little uncomfortable. But I knew that she knew what she was doing. She was very successful at her previous school.”
A major change in Tonyan’s game was that she stayed on the court at all times this season under Tomic.
“This was the first year that I played all around and I played defense,” Tonyan said. “I’d never done that before.”
The results were impressive as Tonyan was named first-team All-Mid-American Conference for the second year in a row.
Tonyan, one of seven juniors on the team, also helped the Falcons (22-11) rebound from a 4-7 start and low expectations. The team was voted to finish third in the six-team MAC East Division.
“We played a lot of Big Ten teams, and I thought, ‘Oh God, this is going to be a long season,’” she said.
Tonyan, who ranked second on the team with 417 kills and 197 digs, helped the Falcons roar to a 9-0 start in conference play.
“Our saying was, ‘Believe BiG,’” she said. “Nobody expected us to win.”
Bowling Green’s winning ways led them to the MAC Tournament title after a 13-3 regular-season record.
At a regional at Penn State, Tonyan had 15 digs and nine kills to help BGSU win the program’s first postseason match, a 3-2 first-round victory against Yale.
“It was awesome,” Tonyan said.
Bowling Green held opponents to a .184 hitting percentage, which ranked second in the MAC.
Upper Iowa honors: Kelsey Taldone, a junior defender at D-II Upper Iowa, was chosen Wednesday as a 2012 National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-Central Region second-team selection.
Taldone, a Crystal Lake South grad, helped Upper Iowa post a school-record 15 wins during the fall season and was part of a defense that recorded 14 shutouts, the best total in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. Taldone, who was a third-team All-NSIC selection and an NSIC All-Tournament choice, had two goals and two assists this season.
She was joined on the All-NSIC team by honorable mention selection and Upper Iowa sophomore forward Kali Loescher (Crystal Lake South), who led the Peacocks (15-3-2) with seven goals this season.
Upper Iowa also got offensive contributions from sophomore forward Corinne Wronski (Huntley), who had two goals and four assists, and freshman midfielder Madie Edwards (Crystal Lake Central), who had two goals and an assist.
Concordia achiever: Crystal Lake South grad Kamile Udrenaite was honored Monday as the Northern Athletics Conference Women’s Indoor Track & Field Student-Athlete of the Week.
Udrenaite, a sophomore at D-III Concordia in River Forest, placed eighth last weekend in the shot put at Illinois State’s Redbird Open with a toss of 35 feet, 111⁄2 inches. Udrenaite posted a career-best effort in the weight throw with a heave of 41-10½ to place 10th.
Concordia was one of only two D-III schools to compete at the ISU meet.
Top freshman: Cary-Grove grad Erik Gustafson, a freshman defender for D-III Augustana’s men’s soccer team, was named the team’s Newcomer of the Year this fall. Gustafson appeared in 14 matches for Augie (6-9-3).
SBlt Barry Bottino writes a weekly column and a blog about local college athletes for the Northwest Herald. Write to him at BarryOnCampus@hotmail.com, check out his On Campus blog at McHenryCountySports.com and follow him @BarryOnCampus on Twitter.