Although the UB Volleyball played some of its best volleyball of the season, they were still swept twice at Ohio. The Bulls are now 0–8, and have not won a set all season.
In the first match, the Bulls lost the first set by 10, but in the next two sets, the Bulls took leads late into the sets, only to find themselves committing too many errors (a problem all season long) and wound up losing each set. In the second set, Buffalo led 21–19 only to see Ohio score the next six points. In the third set, the Bulls opened up an 19–11 lead, playing very sharp team volleyball. They still led at 20–13, only to see Ohio score the next 8 points to take the lead. Although Buffalo would tie the set at 21, Ohio was able to pull ahead and win.
Young teams make a lot of mistakes. That’s where the Bulls are now. They clearly have talent to take a 19–11 lead, but can’t yet figure out how to close out the set.
In the second match, Buffalo again struggled, playing only one partially decent set, the third set, when they scored 20 points. In this match, serve receive was a major problem. Ohio realized that sophomore outside hitter Abby Leigh was returning serve poorly, while Buffalo’s other outside hitter, freshman Milla Malik, was returning serve very well. So Ohio targeted Leigh constantly, and Leigh and Buffalo struggled.
The Bulls adjusted, having sophomore libero Jenna Sonnenberg (pictured above) or Malik step in front of Leigh and return serve. Ohio made their own adjustment, and served Leigh to her left, where there was no possibility of anyone helping, and Leigh was not up to the task. Eventually, Buffalo coach Scott Smith put junior defensive specialist Paige Beck on the court in the second set in place of Leigh (the first appearance by Beck on the court of the week) when Leigh was in the back row to improve Buffalo’s serve receive. Then in the third set, Leigh was replaced by freshman outside hitter Stacia Gollogly and Beck. Those changes, along with shifting to a one-setter offense in the third set run by junior Kyndal Bacon, helped Buffalo play its best volleyball in the third set.
In Leigh’s defense, a year ago she almost never returned serve, and this year was switched to a different position. Leigh has been a consistently positive performer in her time at Buffalo, and so this was one of the very few times last year or this year when Leigh was not on the court for the Bulls.
Malik made her collegiate debut in the first match, after not being in uniform for the first six matches (I presume due to injury). On her first attempt, she scored a cross-court kill. She led the Bulls in kills in the first match with 8, and generally played well. Her serve receive passing in both matches was the best the Bulls have had all season long. She also played all six rotations, a vote of confidence by the coaching staff. Another vote of confidence, three times Malik was set the ball in the back row, but the sets were all off-target. You don’t normally see 5–9 players getting set the ball in the back row.
One other bright spot for the Bulls was sophomore middle blocker Courtney Okwara, who scored well and was generally effective as a blocker.
- No live stats for either match, and the box scores were not immediately available after the match.
- Buffalo’s only senior, middle blocker Lexi Nordmann, returned after missing the previous four matches due to injury.
- Bacon, who stand 5–8, took two full swings at the ball in an attempt to surprise the defense, but neither scored. You just don’t expect that from a 5–8 setter, even though she has the advantage of being left-handed.