UB Volleyball Drops Two Matches at Syracuse Tournament

I guess you could describe the Buffalo volleyball team's performance at the Syracuse Invitational as one step forward and two steps backwards.

Buffalo looked extremely sharp in sweeping Navy on Friday night for their first win of the season. In evaluating Buffalo's win over Navy, it is worth noting that Navy was not a pushover in the rest of the tournament, losing to Syracuse in 4 sets (and almost winning the 4th set), and then losing to New Hampshire in 5 sets, with Navy pushing the fifth set into overtime before losing 19–17 to UNH.

On Saturday afternoon, Buffalo faced UNH and although the match was competitive, the old problem of poor serve receive resurfaced, after being almost absent against Navy. Sophomore Tessa Ooyama had six serve receive errors (tying her season worst which she also achieved against Canisius on Tuesday night), and the team had nine serve receive errors. And even when the ball was returned, the passes were sometimes poor, leading to a less efficient offense — Buffalo hit 0.203 as a team, compared to over .300 against Navy.

Buffalo's blocking was almost non-existent, with only three blocks against the Wildcats all match. And the Wildcats also seemed to figure out that Buffalo's defense was very vulnerable to tip shots and roll shots, which almost always seemed to find their way to the floor.

Outside hitters Megan Lipski and Valisha Watkins led the way for Buffalo with 15 and 14 kills respectively, but the rest of Buffalo's front line attackers were pretty quiet. Buffalo had four players with double-digit digs: Lipski, setter Marissa Prinzbach, defensive specialist Niki Bozinoski and Ooyama, who set a career high with 15 digs in 3 sets (she had 15 in five sets earlier in the year).

In this match, you got the feeling that Buffalo was just a tiny sliver away from success time after time, as they lost 25–23, 25–21 and 25–22. A couple of fewer mistakes, or a couple of better plays, and all three of those sets could have been won by the Bulls. Buffalo is a young team, with a new coach, and it seems like it just is going to take time until they climb that hill and start winning matches like this one.

The wheels came off when Buffalo faced Syracuse in the tournament's final match, losing 3–0. Buffalo continued their poor serve receive, but even when the pass was good and Prinzbach put up an excellent set, Buffalo's attackers seemed to find a way to hit the ball out of bounds or into the net. Part of the problem was Syracuse's size, and the big block of Syracuse's 6-3 outside hitter Monika Salkute and the rest of the Orange's front line appeared to have bothered the UB attackers. Syracuse, like UNH, also found great success tipping the ball over Buffalo's blockers and sending roll shots over the net which always seemed to find an open spot on the floor. Buffalo simply was not competitive in this match, and just about everything that could go wrong did go wrong for the Bulls.