On Friday night, the UB Volleyball team had an atrocious 0.020 hitting percent against Miami. But on Saturday night at Miami, the UB offense went absolutely bonkers, hitting 0.385, a truly impressive attacking performance in any match, but particularly impressive after their Friday night troubles, and particularly impressive against Miami, the four time defending MAC regular season champion.
Buffalo coach Scott Smith had talked in the pre-season about Buffalo running a faster offense this year, as did junior setter Kyndal Bacon in an interview. That faster offense was on display right from the start of the match, after seeing nothing like a faster offense on Friday night. Bacon and sophomore setter Emma Puzauski, when they got good passes (which was often) sent low, fast sets to all of their front line attackers, creating a balanced attack that was difficult for Miami to defend, and the speed of the sets also meant that the Redhawk defense couldn’t set up their defense quickly enough. What did Smith say to his team before the match? I wish I knew.
And the defense looked sharp too, as Buffalo out-blocked Miami. The box score will show Buffalo with 4 blocks and Miami with 1, but Buffalo got their hands on many other Miami shots that didn’t turn into points and didn’t turn into box-score blocks, which still contributed to a strong defense. Buffalo and Miami both had 33 digs, as the UB defense appeared to be much stronger than the night before. This caused Miami’s hitting percentage of 0.264 to be quite a bit lower than Buffalo’s.
So how did Buffalo wind up losing 26–24, 25–19 and 27–25? Note the two deuce sets. The Bulls shot themselves in the foot during serve receive and with too many service errors. Buffalo committed 12 service errors (with just 4 aces), while the Redhawks had 8 aces against Buffalo and only five service errors. Those points were enough to give Miami the wins in the two close sets.
Sophomore outside hitter Abby Leigh led the team with 12 kills and a 0.429 hitting percentage, while freshman right side Emma Gielas had 11 kills and a 0.588 hitting percentage. Senior middle blocker Lexi Nordmann had 6 kills and hit 0.667 while sophomore middle blocker Courtney Okwara had 5 kills and hit 0.714. Sophomore libero Jenna Sonnenberg had 11 digs and junior defensive specialist Paige Beck (pictured above) had 7 digs. Nordmann led the team with 3 blocks while Gielas and freshman outside hitter Stacia Gollogly had 2 each. Beck had 2 aces, while Leigh and Gielas had one each. Bacon had 21 assists while Puzausky had 14. In the two matches combined, Gielas leads the team in kills and in total points.
- The Bulls are now 0–2 on the season and return home to Alumni Arena for matches against defending MAC tournament champion Ball State (2–0) on Thursday, January 28 (6pm) and Friday, January 29 (2pm). No live streaming has been announced for these matches.
- Gollogly, after not scoring a point on Friday night, had the first five kills of her UB career on Saturday night, and showed impressive velocity on some of her attacks.
- Bacon showed once on Friday and once on Saturday that she could attack from the setter position, where she just sets the ball over the net to an empty spot on the floor. Late in the third set, with the Bulls making a comeback, Bacon also picked up an impressive pancake dig to keep a rally alive. (You have to love a team where you can use the words pancake and Bacon in the same sentence ... )
- Not to be outdone, Sonnenberg had three impressive pancakes in one rally. The Bulls were really sprawling all over the court on defense.
- Smith continues to use a two-setter* offense, the asterisk indicating that there is no setter on the court for two rotations, very unusual. But late in the third set, with Buffalo going on a 7–2 run to take the lead, Smith left Bacon on the court in the front row (she’s listed at 5–8) instead of taking her off the court, and Bacon responded with a perfect set to Leigh for a kill. Leigh had 4 kills in that run.
- The above decision by Smith to leave Bacon on the court might have been inspired earlier in the third set by a bizarre set from junior right side Monika Šimkova in a rotation where there was no setter on the court. Šimkova backset the ball and it barely went over the net to the Miami side, and in the ensuing joust at the net, the Miami attack caromed off of Gielas’s arms and landed on the Miami side for a Buffalo point. The box score incorrectly lists this as an assist for Šimkova. In any event, it was a great decision by Smith to let Bacon set in that rotation as the third set wound down.
- Buffalo has run several designed back-row attacks to Leigh, another part of the offensive changes used by Smith. A year ago, Buffalo might have run two designed back-row attacks all year.
- The final play of the match was very curious. Initially, the referees ruled that an attack from Gielas went off a Miami blocker, and Buffalo had tied the set at 26–26. But Miami challenged the call, the referee went to the replay screen, and the ruling was reversed, giving Miami the match, but wait! We’re not done yet. Smith counter-challenged, saying that a Miami player had touched the net. So the referee went back to the replay monitor, and the result was that it was still Miami point and match over.