BUFFALO, NY – The University at Buffalo volleyball team fell 3-1 to #8 Eastern Michigan on Thursday in the opening round of the Mid-American Conference Tournament ending one of the best seasons in school history since the team joined the MAC. The Bulls end the year with a 15-13 record, finishing conference play .500 or better for the first time since joining the league.
The Eagles, who won their fifth straight match, won the contest 25-20, 25-18, 24-26, 25-18 as EMU outhit the Bulls, .287 to .190. The first set was tight early on as the Bulls were within one at 15-14 when Eastern Michigan scored four straight to take the 19-14 lead. The Bulls would get within three late at 23-20, but EMU scored the final two points for the set. A late run in the second set propelled Eastern Michigan to a second set victory as well and a 2-0 lead in the match.
Buffalo would not go down quietly though as it would find a way to win the third set. With the Eagles leading 23-22 late, the Bulls were able to get a kill from senior Cassie Shado and an EMU hitting error to take their first set point. The Eagles fought it off, but kills from Shado and sophomore Polina Prokudina clinched the 26-24 victory for UB.
In the fourth set, the Eagles would race out to a 14-10 lead, but the Bulls got back into the set as they scored three straight, capped off on a Vanessa Marinelli ace, to pull within 14-13. The Bulls were within three at 20-17 when Eastern Michigan ended the set on a 5-1 run to clinch the match.
In her final collegiate match, Shado had nine kills and no errors as she hit .474. Shado ends the season with a .373 hitting percentage, which is the third best in school history. Shado already holds the number two spot from last year. For her career, her .337 hitting percentage is third all-time, and the best ever by a four-year player.
Prokudina led all players with 23 kills in the match, the fifth time this season that she had gone over the 20-kill mark. She added 14 digs to complete the double-double. Freshman Andrea Mitrovic added 14 kills and a team-high 16 digs.
With the season now concluded, several Bulls found their way into the record books for the 2017 season. McLerran's 1,127 assists this season were eighth most in a single-season, while Prokudina's 3.65 kills per set are good for seventh. Mitrovic's 3.57 kills per set are one spot below at eighth in a single season. Bickelhaupt's 3.90 digs per set are 10th all-time in a single season.
With today's win, Eastern Michigan moves on to face #4 Ohio tomorrow in the Quarterfinal round.