CHARLESTON, SC – The University at Buffalo volleyball team found themselves in a familiar spot on Saturday morning as the Bulls went five sets for the fifth time in 10 matches, prevailing 3-2 over Appalachian State. The Bulls improved to 7-3 with the victory.
The Bulls took the contest, 23-25, 27-25, 23-25, 25-22, 15-7 as they outhit the Mountaineers, .251 to .177.
The Bulls got off to a slow start in the opening set before making a late charge that fell just short. In the second set, they rallied as a kill from Polina Prokudina gave them an early 6-2 lead. The Bulls led 14-7 when App State scored five points to pull back within two. UB trailed 19-18, but the Bulls rattled off five straight points to take the 23-19 lead. With Buffalo leading 24-21, the Mountaineers scored four straight to take a 25-24 lead, but a kill from Andrea Mitrovic fought off a set point and then a kill from Kristina Nieves and a block from Nieves and Prokudina gave Buffalo the set, 27-25.
Appalachian State came back and won a tight one in the third, 25-23, as the Bulls were going to need wins in sets four and five for the victory. A kill from junior Megan Wernette put UB ahead 15-10 midway through the fourth and a kill from senior Cassie Shado opened up at 19-12 advantage. However, the Mountaineers made it close as they fought off two set points before a kill from Prokudina sent the match into a fifth set.
The Bulls dominated the fifth as they had 10 kills and just one error to hit .450 as a team. UB raced out to an 8-2 advantage as it began with a pair of service aces from sophomore setter Scout McLerran. A kill from Wernette put UB ahead 10-3 and App State never got any closer than within six. A kill from sophomore Rachel Sanks clinched the fifth set, 15-7, giving the Bulls the five-set win.
McLerran recorded a new career high with 65 assists in the win, surpassing the 64 that she recorded twice last year. The Friendsville, TN native also added two kills, nine digs, and tying her career-high with four service aces. She did a nice job distributing the ball as four UB players finished in double figures in kills and six players had six kills or more.
Prokudina led the way with 26 kills on a career-high 60 total attacks. She recorded a double-double with 17 digs. Mitrovic added 14 kills and just four errors on 41 swings, but she also led the Bulls defensively with a career-best 24 digs. Sanks added 11 kills, while Wernette had 10 kills, three aces, and six digs.
Shado playing in her second match this year played the final three sets and had seven kills and two blocks, while Nieves had six kills in two sets with a pair of blocks.
Junior Larra Bickelhaupt added 14 digs and a pair of aces, while sophomore Hannah Watson recorded 13 digs and an ace. After finishing with 11 aces in yesterday's win over Mercer, Buffalo set a new season-high with 12 aces against App State. UB also set season highs for kills (76), assists (69), and digs (83).
In the nightcap, the Bulls fell 3-0 to the host College of Charleston Cougars in what turned out to be the championship match of the tournament. The Cougars took the contest 25-15, 25-16, 26-24 as they outhit the Bulls .305 to .120. Prokudina led the Bulls with 15 kills, while Mitrovic and Shado each had seven. Shado had just one error as she hit .462 for the match.
McLerran added 32 assists and two aces, while defensively Bickelhaupt led UB with 16 digs. Wernette finished with a team-high four blocks, including a solo.
The Bulls will now take their 7-4 record into conference play, which begins on Friday night at Alumni Arena. UB will host Ohio at 6pm.