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Bulls Pull Off Reverse Sweep to Defeat Western Michigan

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Freshman setter Mandy Leigh
ubbulls.com

The UB Volleyball team, down 2 sets to none against Western Michigan, won the next three sets to take the match for their 5th MAC win of the season. Their record is now 5–8 in the MAC, and they are still in the running to make the final MAC Tournament berth, but they have little margin for error, and probably need some help. #One4Mon

The first two sets saw Buffalo struggle on offense, picking up just 19 points in set 1 and 20 points in set 2. The culprit, following a theme all season, was relatively weak serve receive, leading (another theme recently) sophomore outside hitter Milla Malik, the team’s leading scorer for the season, to get off to a slow start with just four kills in the two sets. In addition, Buffalo could only manage 3 blocks across the first two sets.

But after that, the offense was on fire, as the Bulls serve receive improved, and the Bulls also recorded very few attack errors. The Bulls hit 0.433 with just 3 errors to win the third set 25–23, and then got even hotter and hit 0.441 with just one attack error to win the fourth set 25–23. And then, Buffalo did not have a single attack error and hit 0.391 to take the fifth set 15–10. In addition, Buffalo picked up 9 blocks in the last three sets; and Malik returned to her usual form picking up 10 kills in the last three sets.

With the 5th set tied at 6, Buffalo went on a 4–0 run, with a kill from Malik, a kill from junior middle blocker Courtney Okwara, a WMU error and then an ace from freshman outside hitter Maria Futey. After another WMU point, Buffalo picked up three more points on a kill from Malik and then back-to-back blocks by freshman setter Mandy Leigh, to give the Bulls a 13–8 lead. After another WMU point, a kill by sophomore middle blocker Stacia Gollogly put the Bulls up 14–8. But WMU picked up two points in a row, causing Bulls coach Scott Smith to call a time out to settle his team down.

With Zombie Nation’s “Kerncraft 400” blaring from the Alumni Arena speakers, the Bulls took the court again for what would be the final point. Malik’s attack went off the WMU block and then was passed to the left side where Broncos attacker Julia Marr tried to attack around the Buffalo block and sent the ball wide, and the Bulls had finished the comeback.

In such a close match, an uncharacteristically strong performance by Gollogly made a big difference. Gollogly, who has never put up big block statistics, led the team with 7 blocks (her previous career high was three blocks). She had the Play of the Match™ with the Bulls trailing 8–7 in the second set, Broncos outside hitter Maggie King (who wound up leading all scorers with 21 kills) took a ferocious back row attack and Gollogly, with perfect anticipation, made a solo stuff block. That is one of the most exciting plays in volleyball, solo block on a back row attack. And for good measure Gollogly blocked King again two points later. But it was also one of Gollogly’s best games on offense, with 8 kills and just one attack error; she was more aggressive than any game this year, and had more velocity on her attacks that in any game this year. And a couple of times, Gollogly rescued the ball out of the net to keep a rally alive for the Bulls. Huge impact game for Gollogly.

Sophomore right side Emma Gielas led the Bulls with 15 kills, and had four block assists. Malik had 14 kills and two aces. Futey had 12 kills and Okwara had 9 kills plus 4 blocks. Leigh had 48 assists, four blocks and 4 kills. Junior libero Jenna Sonnenberg had 23 digs plus one kill. Malik had 16 digs, Leigh had 14 digs and Futey had 10.

Notes:

  • Gielas and WMU setter Logan Case were high school teammates and posed for photos for their families after the match. Case was the MAC Freshman of the Year in the spring season, and also the MAC Co-Setter of the Year.
  • Buffalo outblocked WMU 12–4.
  • Buffalo plays WMU again tomorrow, November 5 at Alumni Arena at 4pm (ESPN3). It will be senior night for the UB seniors, defensive specialist Paige Beck and defensive specialist Kyndal Bacon. I also expect senior Monika Šimková to be honored.
  • Šimková was able to sit up by herself for the first time since her legs were amputated (which maybe should be the headline of the story).