At this point, I wonder if the UB volleyball team should even bother returning to Alumni Arena.
On their second of three consecutive weekends away from home, Reed Sunahara's Bulls swept their three matches, conceding just one set, to win their second straight tournament and extend their winning streak to five matches. With just one tournament and one match against Niagara remaining in their nonconference schedule, the Bulls seem to be hitting their stride at the right time.
It's pretty easy to write about an undefeated weekend: UB didn't face too much pressure at all in any of their three contests. On Friday, in the midst of two soccer games, the beginnings of a tennis tournament, and a football game that garnered a little bit of attention, it was volleyball that quietly had the best day in Blue and White.
The first match of the tournament against Western Illinois (MR 248) provided little of note for Bulls fans, other than UB erasing early deficits in the first two sets on the way to a 25-19, 25-21, 25-16 victory. Tahleia Bishop, as is her wont, led the team in both kills (13) and digs (11), and even contributed two aces from the service line. The Bulls were helped quite a bit by a number of Western Illinois errors, as the opposition hit just .098 on the match, but also saw contributions from a variety of sources as Amber Hatchett, Sable Staller, and Megan Lipski all added at least seven kills to UB's offensive attack.
Saturday was even better for the Bulls, who took advantage of two matches, turning them into two victories. First, the Bulls took down the host Flames (MR 212) in four sets, 25-22, 25-16, 25-27, 25-12. While the first set was tightly contested, the second and fourth were not, and UIC erased consecutive UB match points in the third just to extend the match.
In the interest of time, I'll just quote myself from my earlier write up of the Saturday victories:
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.
In the final match of the tournament against Eastern Kentucky (MR 142), UB played through two tight sets to open the match before taking control of the third to win in three sets 26-24, 25-22, 25-16. For the second consecutive match, Tahleia Bishop led UB with 20 kills. From the same link as above:
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.
For UB's take on the pair of Saturday wins:
For the whole tournament, Tahleia Bishop claimed her second MVP award in as many weekends, and Marissa Prinzbach was also named to the All-Tournament team.
In other individual accolades, Bishop once again received recognition for her weekend, which was strikingly similar to last, as she racked up 53 kills and 33 digs in just ten sets for the Bulls. For her efforts she was named both UB Athlete of the Week and MAC East Division Offensive Player of the Week:
If you click through on the MAC link, you'll see that freshman Niki Bozinoski was nominated for MAC East Defensive Player of Week. Though she hasn't won it yet, it's at least the second time she's been nominated. The freshman libero/defensive specialist is having a heck of a start to open her collegiate career.
Finally on the news front, I missed something that I had bookmarked for last week's roundup and then forgot. Reed Sunahara has gotten a commitment from Jessi Holly of Upper Sandusky, OH. Not a bad thing, at all:
On offense, Tahleia Bishop's 149 kills lead the team by a wide margin and account for nearly a third of the team total. Megan Lipski sits solidly in second with 95, while Amber Hatchett and Akeila Lane round out the top five. Altogether those five account for 90% of the team's attack. If Cassie Shado continues to get playing time like she has the last four matches, she will quickly move up, as well.
Marissa Prinzbach has gotten the bulk of the playing time at setter since the team left Buffalo and seems to be the top setter above Megan Lin. Prinzbach is averaging over 11 assists per set after missing the first four matches of the season.
On defense, Niki Boznoski and Tahleia Bishop are unsurprisingly 1-2 in digs, though do-everything Megan Lipski has a number to her credit as well. Blocks are similarly spread across just about everyone who sees regular time in the frontcourt, though Hatchett, Lain, and Shado are UB's best in that regard.
This Week in Bull
UB will head to Bloomington, IN for the final tournament of the year - until the MAC playoffs, of course - as they compete in the Hoosier Classic. In their three matches, the Bulls will face Indiana (MR 92), Butler (MR 52), and get a second shot at Western Illinois.