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Bulls Lose to Western Michigan on Senior Night

Monika Šimková shown on the Alumni Arena screen, receiving her jersey in her hospital room on senior night
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The UB Volleyball team honored three seniors on senior night: defensive specialist Paige Beck, defensive specialist Kyndal Bacon and outside hitter Monika Šimková. Beck had been the Bulls regular libero as a sophomore, and a regular defensive specialist as a freshman and junior, before switching to serving specialist this season. Bacon, a transfer, was the Bulls regular setter as a junior, before switching to defensive specialist as a senior.

Paige Beck (left) and Kyndal Bacon
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By now you know the story of Monika Šimková, who was diagnosed with a severe bacterial infection and to save her life, doctors had to amputate both legs. Šimková played two years for the Bulls, leading the team in aces during her junior year. She received her jersey in her hospital room, where she is now learning to use prosthetic legs. She is expected to enroll in classes at UB in the spring semester. Šimková received a standing ovation from the Alumni Arena crowd of 341. The Western Michigan team remained on the court instead of heading immediately to the locker room after the match, and they all participated in the standing ovation for Šimková. #One4Mon

Unfortunately, the Bulls could not prevail on the court, losing in four sets. Buffalo started promisingly, taking the first set 25–19 and hitting 0.448. Western Michigan took an extended second set 30–28, even though Buffalo had two set point chances. The Bulls continued to sizzle on offense, hitting 0.429, but the Broncos were not far behind at 0.372. Buffalo’s serve receive totally fell apart in the third set, which Buffalo lost 25–15, and the Bulls could only hit 0.143. WMU had four aces in the set, and many other WMU serves were returned poorly. And then WMU won the fourth set 25–21, as both teams hit over 0.300.

The Bulls are now 5–10, two games behind Northern Illinois for the final MAC Tournament berth. Buffalo plays twice at Northern Illinois next week, and then finish with a single match at Akron.

The match itself was a coming out party of sorts for Bulls sophomore middle blocker Stacia Gollogly, who led the team with 15 kills, the first time she has ever led the team in kills. It was also the career high for Gollogly, which previously was 12 kills (and during the rest of Gollogly’s career, she had no other double-digit kill performances). Gollogly had only 2 errors and hit 0.448. This capped a monster weekend for Gollogly, who had 8 kills and only 1 error and led the team with 7 blocks the night before. In both matches, it was obvious that Buffalo’s freshman setter Mandy Leigh made a determined effort to get Gollogly the ball.

Sophomore middle blocker Stacia Gollogly
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Buffalo’s other middle blocker, junior Courtney Okwara also attacked well, with 10 kills and only one error, hitting 0.474. Nice job by Leigh working with her middle blockers.

While Buffalo’s middle blockers were having strong nights, Western Michigan’s middle blockers outscored them, and in fact it was a point of emphasis for the Broncos’ attack. In the Friday night match, WMU’s Kennedy Hogan and Madison Merz had 25 kills in 5 sets, but in this match, they had 31 kills in 4 sets, and gave the Bulls’ defense fits. Merz, in particular, caused grief by attacking from all over the court (left side, middle, right side, slide and middle back). I have never seen a middle back attack from a middle blocker before.

Freshman outside hitter Maria Futey had 15 kills, sophomore outside hitter Milla Malik had 12 kills and sophomore right side Emma Gielas had 11 kills. Leigh had 52 assists, and as with the middle blockers, it seemed that her connection with all front row attackers was especially sharp in this match. Leigh also led the team in digs with 16 and had 3 kills of her own (and zero errors). Junior libero Jenna Sonnenberg had 14 digs while Futey had 13 and Malik had 11.

Notes:

  • Western Michigan coach Colleen Munson is the only active MAC coach to take her team to the Sweet 16. This was in 2008, and the Broncos wound up losing to the eventual national champion, Penn State. The Penn State team featured All-American right side Blair Brown, who later became the UB head coach for four years, known as Blair Brown Lipsitz. Lipsitz coached the Bulls to their best ever record in the MAC, 10–6, in 2018, and then stepped down.
  • Lipsitz was present in Alumni Arena, and after the formal senior night ceremonies, posed with Beck for photos. Beck is the only remaining Bulls player who was on a team coached by Lipsitz.
  • Okwara leads the team in hitting percentage for the season at 0.313, with Leigh almost tied at 0.312. Malik leads the team with 3.78 points per set, and Gielas is second with 3.43.
  • Sophomore middle blocker Olivia DeBortoli leads the team in blocking with 1.02 per set. Okwara is second at 0.90 per set. Sonnenberg leads the team in digs per set at 3.24, and freshman Hannah Jacoby is second at 3.04.
  • Leigh leads the team in aces with 27, while Malik has 24 and Futey has 23.
  • Big milestone for Leigh: