Prior to the beginning of this weekend's MAC volleyball tournament, I had argued that just maybe UB shouldn't be seen as the weakest team in the eight-squad field, as they had played three matches this season without All-MAC leading outside hitter Tahleia Bishop, and fought through three more in which she was barely used or largely ineffective, still clearly dealing with one injury or another.
UB looked to be off to a strong start in this evening's match against the #5-seed Western Michigan, or at least a stronger one than in their four-set loss to the Broncos in the regular season. The two squads, playing in the first match of the tournament, fought point-for-point to a 15-14 lead and a WMU timeout.
In the early going of the match, the Bulls got strong play from Syler Day, filling in for a third straight match for Bishop, Akeila Lain, and Cassie Shado. I don't actually have any stats at the time of writing because the conference's livestats page did not update throughout the entire match.
Anyway, UB was able to build a promising 19-16 lead late in the before surrendering a four point Bronco lead on the strength of two WMU aces and forcing Coach Sunahara to call timeout. Yet another ace - Western Michigan's FIFTH ace of the set - put the #5 seed up 22-20, from which they coasted to a 25-22 lead.
Unfortunately for the Bulls, the first set was the most competitive of the night. Once again the teams were neck and neck early before another four-point Bronco run forced another Bulls timeout at 12-8. From there, though Cassie Shado played well, UB let the lead grow, never getting any closer than three before Western Michigan won the set 25-18.
Officially, the Broncos took the third set 25-19, but it was so, so much more lopsided than that, as Buffalo used a late 7-2 run to fight back a bit. Akeila Lain and a slew of WMU errors were the lone highlights for Bulls fans in the third set, as UB turned an 11-10 lead into a fast 12-22 deficit before fighting back in vain.
As I said, no stats are available right now. The play-by-play guy was pushing the #MACtion hashtag, but for however many people were using that, none had working livestats. I'm sure Lain had double-digit digs, and I'm not sure there were many other highlights. WMU may have had nine aces.
UPDATE: The boxscore is up at ubbulls.com, at least.
Turns out Shado put together 9 kills, Lain 8. The team as a whole hit just .133 and Western had a full ten aces. Not much to say beyond that.
With the loss, UB falls to 16-15 on the season, 6-11 in MAC competition. Thanks to a quirk of the schedule that repeats itself from 2013, the Bulls do still have a match left, as they will host the Albany Great Danes on Saturday, November 29th to close out their season.