It is always nice to end a losing streak. It's particularly nice to do it at home one day after letting a 2-0 lead slip away, as the UB Volleyball team did this past weekend.
Friday night the team had a two-nothing lead on Eastern Michigan heading into the third set, and then everything ended and the Eagles won three straight. Tahleia Bishop had 23 kills, and freshman Cassie Shado added twelve from some strong frontline play, but no one else really showed up.
Against Central Michigan things went considerably better: Bishop still got 20 kills, but was joined by five teammates with five or more. Coach Sunahara increased the blocking power of his frontline by using both setters in the same set and a different sub strategy, and UB finished their home weekend with a four-set win over the Chippewas.
Friday: Loss to EMU, 25-23, 25-18, 24-26, 19-25, 10-15
UB started out strong on Friday, with the offense clicking above its season average through the first two sets, but couldn't capitalize on 23-all and 24-all in the third set and dropped it despite outhitting the Eagles. For the match, four players were in double-digit digs, but only Bishop and Shado had good days in attack.
UB Volleyball Squanders Two-Set Lead in Friday Loss to Eastern Michigan - Bull Run
UB Volleyball returned home on Friday for a match against Eastern Michigan, who shared UB's 3-5 MAC record heading into the second half of the conference season and toward the eight-team playoff....
Saturday: Defeated CMU, 25-16, 19-25, 25-21, 25-15
Central Michigan went bananas in the second set, and UB didn't play all that well: between service errors, service reception issues, and two bad sets, UB handed CMU eight points. But as much as you can discount a single set, this match featured some excellent attacking from the Bulls.
In their three victorious sets, the Bulls hit .346 (.305) for the match, well above their season average in the low-.200s. In addition to Bishop's 20 kills, UB had three players with eight, another with seven, and Sable Staller with five, an all-around attack that at its best keeps defenses from keying in on one side of the court.
The particular highlight of this match, however, was UB's strength in blocking. For the second time this season, the Bulls hit 15 blocks on the night - their season-high is 16 against UIC six weeks ago - with just one blocking error. Throughout the match there were a number of points that went UB's way because of partial blocks that made digging and setting much easier.
Paige pointed out in his usual FanPost that Coach Sunahara's strategy of working both Marissa Prinzbach and Megan Lin in at setter is a sign of a significant shift in strategy: I noticed it at the time, but didn't realize that what Sunahara was doing was maximizing his frontcourt players, using both setters to keep the setter on the back line regardless of the rotation.
Given the team's excellent blocking and attacking numbers on Saturday, it's certainly something to look for going forward.
UB Volleyball, Men's Soccer teams collect home wins Saturday night - Bull Run
If you stuck around after the football game for the rest of the UB evening, you were treated to twin victories tonight from the volleyball and men's soccer teams.
Cassie Shado continues to get playing time, and is now on nearly 200 swings hitting .268 for the year - the highest of any Bull with more than 100 swings. I don't know how long it takes this stat to move from "small sample size" to "generally accurate predictor of things going forward," but Shado has been a solid addition to the Bull's rotation. She's also #2 on the team in blocks per set.
Tahleia Bishop appears to be fully back from whatever health issues or otherwise were holding her back: 43 kills on the weekend brings her to 321 on the season. It certainly looks like she's going to blow past her sophomore year mark of 400.
This Week in Bull
The Bulls (RPI 155, MR 149) return to the MAC East, hitting the road for matches against Bowling Green (258, 234) and Miami (144, 118). Earlier in the season UB swept both teams at home, and since then the Falcons have fallen to 2-8 in conference, while Miami at 7-3 enjoys the #2 spot in the East division.
Two wins this weekend would go a long way for UB's MAC Tournament hopes: last year the Bulls missed out on a spot by tiebreaker, and it's statistically improbable for a .500 team in a 12-team conference to finish ninth. Getting to .500 is paramount.
This Week in Bull