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Buffalo Bulls Volleyball Roundup: Now or never for a MAC Tournament berth

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With two games to play for all teams, the Bulls are in a ninth-place tie, but just one game out of eighth and just their third-ever MAC tournament. Factor in the difficult remaining schedules of the teams around them, and UB could just sneak in in Coach Sunahara's first season.

UB Athletics

This is either the last or second-to-last volleyball roundup of the season. After this weekend the Bulls will either advance to the MAC Tournament for only the third time in program history, or will sit tight for a few weeks before a season-ending home match against Albany. Either way, I'm going to run out of news fast.

Last weekend did not go well for the Bulls on their home court, dropping matches to both Kent and Ohio, but other MAC results went about as positively as possible for UB's tournament hopes: Bowling Green also dropped both matches and CMU won only against Toledo, who is so, so bad at volleyball.

First the matches, and then the scoreboard watching for this weekend. Buffalo's loss to Kent was particularly painful, as the Bulls fell to 0-4 in fifth sets this season. Niki Bozinoski played one of her better games of the season, with a season- (and obviously career-) high 33 digs, though it was her recovery of a ball that Megan Lipski called out on match point that swung the fifth set momentum to Kent.

I have replayed the point a handful of times in my head and I am honestly not sure if the ball would have landed out or not, but Cassie Shado hit the resulting attack long and the Golden Flashes were able to rally.

UB Bulls Volleyball fall in 5 sets in must-win against Kent State - Bull Run
Returning home after a tough trip to Miami and Bowling Green last weekend, UB Volleyball fell in five sets to the Golden Flashes this evening, despite enjoying match point at 14-13 in the fifth...

Bulls Drop Five-Set Heartbreaker To Kent State - Buffalo

You'll notice that I called Kent State a 'must-win' for the Bulls. Thanks to some very favorable scores from elsewhere in the MAC and relative schedule strength of the teams around them, UB still has a significant chance of advancing into the MAC Tournament.

Before that, though, the Bulls fell on Saturday to the MAC-leading Ohio Bobcats in three straight, relatively noncompetitive sets. Outside hitters Megan Lipski and Tahleia Bishop were completely stymied by the Bobcats' defense, though UB found some success up the middle.

In addition to the match, UB celebrated and honored the contributions of their senior class: Liz Scott and Sable Staller.

Senior Salutes: UB Volleyball Honors Sable Staller, Liz Scott Saturday - Bull Run
Volleyball's Liz Scott and Sable Staller are the latest Seniors to celebrate their years in Amherst.

UB Sports Saturday: Volleyball, Swimming, Wrestling, Rowing - Bull Run
UB would hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over CMU, and appears to hold the head-to-head-to-head tiebreaker should all three teams finish tied. The Bulls final two games against Akron and Toledo are by far the easiest of the six contests remaining for the three teams, and with two wins and even one loss from both CMU and BGSU the Bulls can make the tournament for just the third time in program history.

Bulls Fall To Conference-Leading Ohio - Buffalo

In other news, the Bulls also signed Gabriela Maciagowski of Leaside, ON on the first day of the Fall Signing period yesterday. Another verbal commitment apparently did not sign, though I'm holding off on worry right now, and we also know of a third who has already committed but is only in her junior year and will begin play with the Bulls in 2016.

Now, the good stuff. First, the current MAC standings, with two matches remaining for all teams:

VB MAC Standings

Central Michigan currently holds the #8 spot at 5-9, while Bowling Green and Buffalo share #9 at 4-10. All three teams have two games remaining:

Buffalo: vs Akron (THU), @Toledo (SAT)
Central Michigan: @NIU (FRI), @WMU (SAT)
Bowling Green: @Ohio (FRI), @Kent (SAT)

Without being too over the top. It's unlikely that either Bowling Green or Central Michigan win more than one of their matches this weekend, both on the road. Both will travel to the top team in their division. At the same time, Buffalo faces the two weakest teams in the conference: Toledo is somehow ahead of 57 teams in the RPI rankings, but has just a single win on the season, and UB dispatched Akron on the road earlier in the season even without Tahleia Bishop and Marissa Prinzbach.

As tiebreakers go, UB would take the tiebreaker in a 5-11 or 6-10 tie with CMU based on their head-to-head victory over the Chips. Similarly, a three-way tie at 5-11 or 6-10 would go to UB.

The kicker is if UB and Bowling Green both win out, while CMU loses twice. UB and the Falcons are 1-1 head-to-head, and would have identical 4-6 records against the MAC East. Paige suspects that the next tiebreaker will be sets won in head-to-head matches, which would fall UB's way, so I think that's pretty good.

In any situation Buffalo is in a pretty good spot, all things considered, with two very winnable matches this weekend. My prediction? UB win tonight while Bowling Green and Central both lose against the division leaders tomorrow, setting the Bulls up to clinch the #8 seed without further help with a win against Toledo on Saturday.

Go Bulls!