AKRON, OH - The University at Buffalo volleyball team hit .494 over the final three sets on Thursday night as the Bulls came back in five sets to defeat Akron, picking up their first Mid-American Conference victory of the season.
The Bulls took the contest 17-25, 21-25, 26-24, 25-22, 15-4 as Buffalo hit a season-best .296 opposed to .217 for Akron.
After the Zips took a 2-0 lead into the intermission, the Bulls came out of the break a completely different squad. UB had to fight its way back early in the third as Akron got out to an early 7-2 lead. A kill from senior Amber Hatchett pulled the Bulls back within one at 14-13, but Akron went back ahead 17-13 when the Bulls called timeout. UB went on a 7-1 run out of the timeout as an Akron attack error gave the Bulls a 20-18 lead. The Zips went back ahead 22-21, but back-to-back kills from Cassie Shado, two of her career-high 22, put the Bulls back in the lead 23-22. The Zips fought off one match point before UB took the set 26-24.
UB opened a 10-7 lead in the fourth needing a win to keep the match alive. Akron would regain a lead at 16-14, but the Bulls answered with three straight points to take the lead. UB would never relinquish the lead in the set, but Akron continued to pull within one, but with the Bulls leading 23-22, UB got a kill from sophomore Megan Wernette and an Akron hitting error to clinch the set and force a pivotal fifth.
There was never any doubt who the aggressor was in the fifth set as the Bulls totally dominated, hitting .625 in the set with 10 kills and no errors on 16 swings. UB led 3-1 early in the set and continued to lead 7-3 when Akron got a kill to pull within 7-4. Little did the Zips know at the time that it would be their final point of the evening. Following a block from Scout McLerran and Wernette, sophomore Valisha Watkins would serve out the rest of the match as the Bulls got five kills during the final seven points, including two each from Wernette and sophomore Madison Clark.
"I am so proud of the fight we saw from the entire team tonight," said head coach Blair Brown Lipsitz. "Cassie had a career night and we had some upperclassmen step up in a big way after struggling early on. It's great to win on the road, especially against an experienced team like Akron. We are excited to finally be at Alumni Arena on Saturday and play in front of our home crowd."
Shado had a career night as she shattered her previous total of 15 with 22 kills on the evening. Even more impressive is that she had just one error on 31 swings, hitting .677 for the evening. She was one of four players in double figures in kills as Clark and Wernette each finished with 11 kills and three errors, while Watkins had 10 kills.
McLerran led the offense with 46 assists, while adding five kills, nine digs and two blocks.
Defensively, freshman Hannah Watson had 20 digs, including nine in the first set. Clark completed the double-double with 10 digs. UB had 12.0 total blocks as a team, led by seven from Wernette, including a pair of solos. Clark added four on the evening.
After completing a stretch that saw the Bulls play their first 16 matches on the road, Buffalo will finally be at home for the first time on Saturday evening when it welcomes Ball State to Alumni Arena. The match is set for 6pm.