The UB Volleyball team opened it’s MAC schedule with a five set victory over Miami (OH), 26–24, 25–21, 13–25, 21–25, 15–12. Buffalo is now 8–5 and 1–0 in the MAC. #One4Mon
Buffalo came back from a four point deficit late in the first set to take the set, and then came back from a 7-point deficit to take the second set. By this point, Buffalo sophomore outside hitter Milla Malik had 12 kills.
In the third set, Buffalo trailed by 10, but then cut the Miami lead to 17–13. Could the Bulls do it again, this time from a 10 point deficit? Unfortunately not, as Miami went on a 8–0 run to take the set. Malik had only one kill in the set and the Bulls hit –0.086. Buffalo also trailed the entire fourth set to set up a fifth and deciding set. During the third and fourth sets, Buffalo’s passing broke down, particularly freshman outside hitter Maria Futey.
Both coaches made decisions that would have a huge impact on the fifth set. Miami coach Carolyn Condit chose not to serve the ball at Futey, and serve almost exclusively at Malik. Malik was up to the task, and returned serve well. Buffalo coach Scott Smith changed his serving rotation to have senior defensive specialist Kyndal Bacon serve first (in the other four sets, freshman setter Mandy Leigh served first). This also meant that junior middle blocker Courtney Okwara would start on the court (normally Okwara starts on the bench).
Both Bacon and Okwara made good use of their extra time on the court in the short fifth set. Okwara scored two of Buffalo’s first three points, with two kills, the first one coming after a block touch by Okwara helped the Bulls’ defense control the ball. Later, Okwara’s kill would be Buffalo’s seventh point, tying the set, and Bacon stepped to the service line again. Bacon has always been one of Buffalo’s best servers, and she is the only lefty server the Bulls have. Two short serves by Bacon were aces, and the Bulls led 9–7. Then a stuff block from Okwara gave Buffalo a 10–7 lead.
Back-to-back blocks, one by Malik and one by sophomore middle blocker Olivia DeBortoli gave Buffalo a 14–11 lead, and after a Miami point, a cross-court kill from Malik from her off-wing ended the match.
Malik led the Bulls with 20 kills and also had 3 blocks, while Okwara had 15 kills (her career high) and had three blocks. DeBortoli had 7 blocks. Leigh had 45 assists, 4 blocks and 13 digs. Bacon had 11 digs, Futey had 13 digs and freshman libero Hannah Jacoby had 21 digs (her career high). I note for emphasis on how well Bacon is playing this year, that she achieves her dig totals playing only three rotations, while Leigh, Futey and Jacoby all achieve their dig totals playing six rotations. I also note that until this year, Bacon was a setter.
Buffalo will play Miami again (September 25 at 4pm at Alumni Arena) because of the new MAC scheduling, where most weekends teams play each other back-to-back.
- During the break between the third and fourth sets, play was suspended for several minutes as there was some foreign substance or moisture on the court, and the UB staff spent about five minutes vigorously and repeatedly toweling off the court (from where I was sitting, this area of the court also appeared to be discolored). Play resumed with no problems.
- Condit is now in her 38th year coaching at Miami, picking up 665 career wins. Very impressive numbers! Is she the current most-tenured volleyball coach at one university? No, that honor belongs to Russ Rose at Penn State, now in his 43rd year. Rose has over 1300 wins and 7 national championships.
- Buffalo is now 3–1 in 5 set matches.