Bulls Blitz Bobcats For MAC-Opening Win

Cassie Shado

BUFFALO, NY – Over the last two decades the Ohio Bobcats have been known as the class of the Mid-American Conference in volleyball, but the University at Buffalo volleyball team defeated the Bobcats for just the second time since 1999 with a 3-1 victory Friday night at Alumni Arena in the Mid-American Conference opener for both teams.  It was Buffalo's first win over Ohio since Nov. 5, 2010.

The Bulls took the contest 21-25, 25-21, 25-14, 25-17 as UB outhit Ohio, .269 to .168.  As they have done so many times before, the Bulls started slow, but answered the challenge and rebounded nicely.  In fact, it was the fifth time that UB has won the match after losing the opening set.

UB fought its way back and took a 19-18 lead in the opening set, but Ohio scored five straight points to take the 23-19 advantage.  Ohio went on to take the opening set, 25-21.  UB trailed 14-9 in the second set when the Bulls went on a set and match-changing 9-1 run. Buffalo took advantage of a couple Ohio attack errors and capped the run off on a double block from Megan Wernette and Scout McLerran to lead 18-15.  Ohio regained a 21-20 lead, but the Bulls scored the final five points of the set and a kill from senior Cassie Shado gave UB the set 25-21.

Following the break, the Bulls came out and dominated the final two sets.  UB opened the third set on a 12-5 run, which was capped off on another block from Wernette and McLerran.  A kill from Shado increased the lead to 19-7 and Ohio never pulled any closer than eight.  A kill by Wernette clinched the set, 25-14, and gave Buffalo a 2-1 lead.

Ohio got out to the early 5-2 lead in the fourth set, but the Bulls went on a quick 4-1 run to tie it up early.  UB continued to lead 12-11 when the Bulls put the match out of reach with an 8-3 run as a kill by freshman Andrea Mitrovic gave the Bulls the 20-14 lead. The Bobcats pulled within 21-16, but UB ended the night on a 4-1 run and an Ohio service error ended the contest, 25-17.

"It was an outstanding team win tonight against an outstanding Ohio team, who has been at the top of this league for so long," said head coach Blair Brown Lipsitz.  "We may have started off slow, but our team never panics and they responded well to some adversity and came out with a really great victory to open conference play."

Sophomore Polina Prokudina led the Bulls with 15 kills and 14 digs on the night, while Mitrovic finished with 13 kills, eight digs, and a team-high three aces.

Shado had her best match since returning from injury as she finished with 13 kills and just two errors, hitting .378. She added five blocks, including three solo blocks.  Wernette added seven kills and just one error, hitting .600 with five block assists and two aces.

Sophomore Kristina Nieves moved over and started as the right side tonight and she responded with four kills and four blocks.  McLerran had 41 assists, while adding 11 digs, four kills, two aces, and a pair of blocks.

Junior Larra Bickelhaupt added 13 digs and an ace, while sophomore Hannah Watson chipped in five digs and an ace.

As a team, the Bulls finished with a season-high 11.0 total blocks, while they also reached double figures in service aces for the third time in the last four matches.

Buffalo will remain home tomorrow evening when they host Kent State at Alumni Arena.  The match is set to begin at 6pm.