The UB Bulls Volleyball team had lost seven of their last eight matches and slipped all the way to 4-10 in the MAC. Yet, coming into this weekend they had a great chance to fight back into the #8 seed and earn their third-ever berth in the conference tournament.
Tonight's three-set victory over Akron was exactly what the doctor ordered for the team's postseason hopes; even without junior Tahleia Bishop, who did not play and had a bandage on her right wrist. The Bulls rolled past the Zips 25-14, 25-23, 20 anyway, and are in great position to advance to the MAC Tournament with a win over Toledo - one of the worst teams in the NCAA - on Saturday.
The first set was never in doubt. Right off the bat UB got points from Megan Lipski on the outside and a block from Akeila Lain and Cassie Shado on the inside. An easy 6-3 lead became 10-4, 13-6, and 18-10, before finishing at 25-14. UB was bolstered notably by a big service run from freshman Skyler Day, who started in Bishop's absence.
A later run with Megan Lin at the line got the Bulls to set point, and Day ended the first on the ace, one of four in the set.
The second set started sloppier on both sides and was closer throughout than the extremely lopsided first set. The Bulls slowly built a 12-9 and then 19-14 lead thanks notably to strong play from Cassie Shado, but the Zips were able to get to 22-21 and force a timeout from Reed Sunahara. UB wasn't markedly better out of the timeout, but was able to trade points and win 25-23.
Down 2-0 in the match, the Zips showed some fight in the early points of the third set, using two aces of their own to jump to a 3-1 lead. Sandwiched around a pair of service errors from each side, Skyler Day and Sable Staller came up with big kills, and UB built a two-point lead and inched it to three at 10-7. A 6-1 run built on two aces and two kills from Skyler Day got UB to 18-13.
Once again the Zips rallied, this time to 21-19, and forced a Buffalo timeout, but Cassie Shado and Akeila Lain together accounted for three of the final four points in the match and UB finished Akron off at 25-20.
As mentioned above, Tahleia Bishop sat today out with an apparent wrist injury. Given the ease with with UB dispatched their opponent today and the relative strength of Toledo, I fully expect her to also sit out on Saturday, as well. In her stead tonight at least, freshman Skyler Day played her finest match of the year: 13 kills on .312 hitting, 3 aces, and 10 digs.
In truth, everyone played well; Day, Shado, Hatchett, and Staller were all over .300 hitting percentage, while Day, Bozinoski, and Lipski all had double-digit digs. Bozinoski added two more aces, Lin and Prinzbach had 20 assists apiece, and the team as a whole had 9 blocks.
UB was the only of the three teams fighting for the #8 seed to play tonight, but their win should put both CMU and BGSU on their heels. Both the Chippewas and the Falcons play tomorrow, against division leaders Northern Illinois and Ohio, respectively. With losses by both, which I expect, UB will be in position to at worst tie for eighth with a win over Toledo. They own the tiebreaker against CMU, and in the event of a three-way tie. I also believe they own it against Bowling Green, but a tie with the Falcons looks unlikely.
UB next plays on the road against the Toledo Rockets Saturday at 7:00. Unless Central Michigan upsets Northern Illinois tomorrow, the Bulls should be in a win-and-you're-in position at the opening point.