A good night's rest was apparently all that UB's volleyball team needed after starting their season with a three-set loss at the hands of Lehigh Friday night, because on Saturday the Bulls looked like an entirely different team, one that would have rolled through their opening match competition.
As it stood, UB didn't get another shot at Lehigh, but did get a chance in the afternoon against Siena, and in the evening against Canisius.
The Bulls' noon match saw them defeat Siena, 25-14, 25-20, 25-20 thanks to a strong first set built on a fast 8 point lead at 13-5 on an Amber Hatchett kill. The Bulls would maintain the 8 point lead to the end of the set, when it ballooned to an 11 point advantage at the end of the set on yet another Hatchett kill. In the first set alone the junior notched 6 kills, just one off the team high from last night.
Despite an opening 10-4 run, the second set was a much more back-and-forth affair. UB pulled away thanks in part to two aces from newcomer Niki Bozinoski, and UB ended the set just as they started it with a kill from Sable Staller. The third set once again went to UB, once again by a 25-20 score after a back and forth with the Saints, but the starpower in this frame came from Hatchett and Junior Megan Lipski, who keyed a seven-point run to take a 19-12 lead before Tahleia Bishop ended the match a few minutes later.
On the whole, Hatchett finished the first match with a career-high 15 kills, while Megan Lin fared much better as setter today, settling and focusing the UB offense with 37 assists.
Most of us missed the first two sets of the second match against Canisius thanks to the long-running football game, but suffice it to say UB improved on their earlier performance, owning the first two sets 25-13 and 25-18 before meeting some resistance in the third.
The third set was the closest of the day for the Bulls, but also the most efficient for their offense, as they hit .450 in the frame. A 6-1 run for the Bulls midway through gave them the lead thanks to two big kills from Bishop sandwiched around a service ace from Megan Lin, which Sable Staller followed up with a heads-up kill that caught the Golden Griffins off-guard. Canisius was able to force a tie at 24, but consecutive UB points on a kill from Hatchett and a Canisius spike hit long ended the set and match for UB.
For the day, Amber Hatchett threw down 29 kills, while Tahleia Bishop had only one error. Those two combined with Lipski for 38 of UB's 99 kills on the day. From the behind the line, the Bulls notched 16 aces, led by 6 from Lipski, while on defense Bozinoski led the way with 30 digs, while Sable Staller had 20 and Lipski 18.
Some general takeaways:
- Much of the improvement on the offensive end can be attributed to setter Megan Lin, who looked much calmer today. After setting a career-high with 37 assists against Siena, she promptly got 42 against the Golden Griffins. Throughout the day, UB's timing and flow of attack looked much smoother and more in-sync than on Friday, noticeable both in Lin's setting and in the more vocal communication around the team.
- Generally, if a strong front row player needs to be subbed out when the rotation brings her to the backline, a team won't be able to replace her. UB, however, boasts a deep pool of strong attackers, not just in Bishop and Hatchett, but also in Akeila Lain, Megan Lipski, and Sable Staller. Regardless of the combination in the frontcourt, UB was always dangerous and varied in their attack.
- In particular, we should highlight Sable Staller and Megan Lipski. Staller, returning to the floor after a long trouble with her knee, looks strong for UB, setting a career high in digs in the Canisius match with 11 and playing the entire Siena match, both front line and back line, without ever subbing out. In Lipski, Coach Sunahara has a dangerous attacker from the left side who is also an effective calming presence for the Bulls on the receiving end in the back. Lipski did a little bit of everything today, notching 18 kills, 6 service aces, and 18 digs.
- Liz Scott once again did not dress for UB. It's early, but given her history with injuries, we wonder what we'll see from the senior this season.
- This is just frivolous, but the pun potential on UB's roster is far too great to ignore. Hatchett and Bishop top the list, but Lain, Lipski, Shado, and Day also show promise for the wordsmiths among us.