CHARLESTON, SC – Despite a slow start on Friday afternoon, the University at Buffalo volleyball team was able to win its weekend opener, defeating Mercer 3-1, in the first match at the Charleston Invitational. Freshman Andrea Mitrovic led the Bulls in kills, digs, and service aces in the victory.
The Bulls took the contest 17-25, 25-16, 25-22, 26-24 despite being outhit by Mercer. The Bears took the early lead in the contest as they opened the match on a 7-2 run. Mercer led by as much as 21-10 in the opening set when the Bulls attempted to make a late run. They scored four straight points to force a Mercer timeout, but the Bears took the opening set.
However, the Bulls were able to take the momentum from their late run at use it in the final three sets. Buffalo led by just one at 4-3 earlier in the second set when it scored five straight points, capped off on an ace from Polina Prokudina to take a 9-3 lead. An ace from junior Larra Bickelhaupt put the Bulls ahead 19-14 and a kill from Prokudina gave UB the set, 25-16.
During the second set, the Bulls got a boost in their lineup as All-MAC performer Cassie Shado made her season debut, after missing the first eight matches due to injury. She recorded a kill midway through the third set, which put Buffalo ahead 13-6. The Bulls continued to lead 15-8 when Mercer scored five straight to pull within two. They tied the set up late at 20-20, but a kill from Mitrovic and a Megan Wernette ace gave UB a 22-20 lead. A kill from Prokudina clinched the set at 25-22 and gave the Bulls a 2-1 lead.
UB was looking to do something that it had not done all season and that is clinch a match in the fourth set and it took everything they had, and then some, to make it happen. Back-to-back kills from Wernette gave Buffalo the early 8-4 lead. The Bulls continued to lead 12-9 when Mercer went on a run to take the 22-17 advantage. Nevertheless, the Bulls were up for the challenge, scoring the next four points to pull back within 22-21. Mercer regained the 23-21 lead, but the Bulls scored the next three points, including a kill from Shado and a block from Shado and Rachel Sanks. Mercer tied it back up at 24-24, but Mitrovic put an end to the match with a kill followed by a service ace, which capped off the night.
Mitrovic led the Bulls with 16, kills, 12 digs, and three service aces. Prokudina also finished with a double-double as she had 11 kills and 10 digs.
Sanks had one of her best matches of the season as she recorded eight kills and just one error, hitting .583. Wernette added seven kills, while Shado had three kills and no errors in her return to the lineup.
Sophomore Scout McLerran dished out 40 assists in the four sets, while adding a pair of kills and a pair of aces.
As a team, the Bulls had a season-high 11 service aces coming from six different players. They also recorded 5.0 total blocks, including solos from McLerran, Wernette, and Shado.
The Bulls will conclude non-conference play tomorrow with a pair of matches in Charleston. The Bulls will play Appalachian State at 10:30am and then the host College of Charleston Cougars at 7pm. Charleston swept the Mountaineers, 3-0, in their match this evening.