UB hasn't opened 2014 on a 12-0 run, as they did in 2013 when they didn't even drop a set for nearly a month. But against a much tougher slate the Bulls are now 6-3 and hitting their stride after their fourth straight win came this afternoon against the University of Illinois at Chicago in the Flames' own tournament.
By Massey Ratings, UB is only stronger than their Friday opponent Western Illinois among teams in the tournament, but UIC defeated both Indiana - who UB will not face in this tournament, but will see next weekend - and Eastern Kentucky on Friday. The Flames, however, were no match for UB this afternoon, needing a strong comeback late in the third set to avoid a sweep, as UB ultimately won the match 25-22, 25-16, 25-27, 25-12.
As you can see from the scores, the second and fourth sets in particular saw UB really exert their will on the Flames. Each of the first three sets started close until both teams were around the 10 point mark, and the Bulls built a lead in the middle of all three to control much of the match. After UIC used a 10-4 run to overcome a four point deficit and two Buffalo match points in the third set, UB allowed them no reason for hope in the final set, putting together separate runs of five, eight, and four points to quickly end the match.
On the afternoon UB was unsurprisingly lead by Tahleia Bishop and Megan Lipski, but also by freshman Cassie Shado. After seeing only a little bit of action in the UB Invitational, Shado had 10 kills against South Carolina State and today supplanted Akeila Lane in the frontcourt rotation on her way to nine kills and five blocks, three of them solo. After UIC mounted their comeback in the third set, Shado singlehandedly put UB up for good in the fourth with a trio of consecutive points on a kill, a service ace, and a block.
Bishop once again was once again the top performer of the match, announcing her presence with seven kills in the first set on her way to match highs in both kills and digs with 20 and 17, respectively. Lipski, with her customary little bit of everything, added 15 kills, eight digs, and three blocks, and Amber Hatchett used a strong fourth set to finish with eight kills and five blocks.
As a team UB hit .258, thanks to a strong receiving game from Bishop and Niki Bozinoski's 15 digs, and 44 assists from Marissa Prinzbach, who has gotten the bulk of playing time at setter since the first weekend. UB held the Flames to just a .062 hitting percentage.
UB is the lone team undefeated in the tournament, and with a win over Eastern Kentucky at 6:00 PM would take first place. Check back here later tonight for an update and write up on that match. Go Bulls!
UPDATE: UB Wins UIC Tournament with 3-0 victory over Eastern Kentucky
More to come in this space shortly: live stats were down for much of the game, so I want to cycle through the play-by-play before writing.
The short answer: It looks like Coach Sunahara used the same recipe from earlier today, as Bishop led the attack and was bolstered by Lipski, Hatchett, and Shado in the 26-24, 25-22, 25-16 victory over Eastern Kentucy. With the win, UB is 3-0 and presumed winners of the UIC Tournament, their second in two weekends. UB has won five straight.
UPDATE #2: I'll just add in some general observations without trying to build a narrative:
- The very first thing I notice as I look more at the stats is the hitting percentage for both teams. In the first set, UB scored 20 of their 26 points on kills and only made three attack errors. While EKU hit .371, UB hit an incredible .486. I won't look it up, but I would be shocked if the first set wasn't UB's absolute best of the year. The Bulls would come down to earth in the second and third sets, but EKU committed just as many errors as kills to hit .000 in both. Giving away that many points makes it easy for the opponent to take control - and UB did.
- It was much of the same for UB's attack in the evening: Tahleia Bishop got another 20 kills, while Amber Hatchett, Cassie Shado, and Megan Lipski combined for 21 more. In fact, throw in Sable Staller and all of UB's kills came from just five players.
- On defense, Marissa Prinzbach once again got the majority of work at setter. I'm looking forward to UB's home match against Niagara on Tuesday the 23rd to see her setting in person and compare it to Megan Lin's, but it's easy to see now that the 5'11" Prinzbach is more valuable in front of the net than her 5'8" counterpart in Lin. Prinzbach tied for the team lead with four blocks against EKU.
- Niki Bozinoski led the team in digs again, ho hum. She's only a freshman, ho hum.
- Tahleia Bishop was named Tournament MVP, and Marissa Prinzbach also made the All-Tournament Team.