BUFFALO, NY – The University at Buffalo volleyball team snapped a four-match losing skid on Friday night as the Bulls swept the defending Mid-American Conference Tournament champions, Northern Illinois, 3-0, at Alumni Arena. The Bulls are now 10-8 on the season and 3-4 in league play.
The Bulls took the contest 25-23, 25-14, 25-19 as UB hit a season-high .327 for the match, while the Huskies hit just .182. The first set was really the only one that was close all night. Northern Illinois opened the match on a 9-4 run, but the Bulls responded with their own 9-4 run as a service ace from freshman Andrea Mitrovic tied the set up at 13-13. UB then went on to take a 17-14 advantage before the Huskies came back to tie it up at 23-23. Following a UB timeout, the Bulls got back-to-back kills from sophomore Polina Prokudina, which clinched the opening set for Buffalo, 25-23.
After hitting .333 in the opening set, the Bulls dominated the second set, hitting .400 as a team. UB led by just one at 9-8 in the set when the Bulls went on a 9-1 run, as a kill from junior Raven Jordan put Buffalo ahead 18-9. Jordan had a pair of kills during the run as she put forth one of her best performances of the year. A kill from Mitrovic extended the lead to 22-12 and a kill by senior Cassie Shado ended the set in favor of the Bulls, 25-14.
Buffalo kept its foot on the pedal in the third set, racing out to an 11-6 advantage as a kill from Mitrovic forced and early NIU timeout. A service ace from freshman Vanessa Marinelli extended the Buffalo lead to 18-13 and another kill by Shado put the Bulls ahead 23-17. The Huskies fought off one set point, but sophomore setter Scout McLerran ended it with her fourth kill of the night to clinch the set and the match.
"I was really proud of the way the entire team stepped up tonight and defeated a Northern Illinois team that had been playing some of its best volleyball lately," said head coach Blair Brown Lipsitz. "I thought we got contributions from everyone on the court and that is what you need to win matches in this league."
Mitrovic led the Bulls with 17 kills, while adding three aces and six digs. Prokudina had 11 kills, while chipping in seven digs and three assists.
Sophomore Kristina Nieves stepped back into the starting lineup in the middle tonight and answered with six kills and no errors as she hit .600. Shado added six kills as she hit .455 with three blocks, including a solo.
Jordan had four kills and three digs, while McLerran added four kills in addition to her 35 assists, eight digs, and two blocks.
Junior Larra Bickelhaupt had 18 digs, averaging 6.00 digs per set in the win. She also tied for team-high honors with three aces and added four assists. Sophomore Hannah Watson had five digs, while Marinelli stepped in as a serving specialist and came away with an ace and two digs.
The Bulls set a number of season highs for a three-set match tonight; including hitting percentage (.327), kills (48), assists (44), and digs (49).
Buffalo will remain home tomorrow evening when the Bulls host Western Michigan at Alumni Arena. The match is set to begin at 6pm.