Valisha Watkins joined Marissa Prinzbach and Amber Hatchett on the inactive list this weekend, but despite another winless stretch UB Volleyball put together another resilient performance in Saturday's five-set loss to Northern Illinois. Buffalo came from behind twice before falling for good in the 25-21, 23-25, 27-25, 18-25, 15-8 Huskies win.
UB has been the victim of mid-match adjustments on multiple occasions this season, but last night seized control after the break, holding NIU to just .087 hitting in the third and fourth sets, while hitting above .300 themselves in a do-or-die fourth frame.
Buffalo never trailed in the second set and used a key early run with Niki Bozinoski serving in the fourth to take control, but were unable to push through in a narrow third set despite fighting to even scores at 19-, 23-, and 25-all. Just one night after the Bulls squandered a chance to force a fifth set against one MAC West leader, it was good to see them manage a little better against the other.
Individually, the five set match provided plenty of opportunity. Megan Wernette continued her strong freshman season with a career-high 16 kills (on just a single error) while classmate Madison Clark also hit a career high with 53 assists at setter (Marissa Prinzbach's season high is 54). On a night where Cassie Shado (9 kills, 5 errors) was slightly off her game, Akeila Lain contributed 12 kills and Raven Jordan added 7 in place of Watkins. Megan Lipski led the Bulls with 18, but took 70 swings to get there.
Buffalo has now set season-highs in digs in consecutive games, topping Friday's 78 with a whopping 93 as five different Bulls hit double digits. As we see the defense come together, we're still not seeing great blocking numbers; UB only managed four on the night. Still, the group as a whole is looking better, even if they committed seven errors in serve receipt, five from Tessa Ooyama.
I am very, very eager to watch the replay of this one. Buffalo has lost four in a row and is headed on the road, but has me as optimistic as I've been all season.