Bulls Defeat Kent State To Reach First Conference Quarterfinal
KENT, OH – In a season of firsts, it was only fitting that the University at Buffalo women's volleyball team would add one more to their list of accomplishments and this time it was perhaps the most important of them all. The Bulls went into Kent State for the first round of the 2009 MAC Tournament with six straight losses, but that didn't stop the team from defeating the Golden Flashes in a five-set thriller, 3-2. The win was UB's first ever in the MAC Tournament and they now move on to the SeaGate Center in Toledo, OH for Friday night's quarterfinal against Western Michigan.
The Bulls took the match 15-25, 25-23, 23-25, 25-19, 15-13 and despite hitting just .092 on the night, UB got timely serving, some huge digs and the kills when the Bulls most desperately needed them. If the night wasn't already filled with enough emotion, it took a comeback for the ages for UB to pull it off in the fifth. The Golden Flashes got off to an early 7-2 lead and for a moment it looked like UB's luck may have run out, except nobody told that to the Bulls. With the Golden Flashes up 8-4, the Bulls scored four straight points to tie the game up and with things tied at nine, UB rattled off three straight points to take the 12-9 lead. A UB service error cut the lead to 12-10, but senior Maria Mezzadri knew that this wasn't going to be the last match of her career as a kill by the Livonia, MI native gave the Bulls a 13-10 lead. Kent State cut it to 13-12, but junior Marisa Hornbaker put that to an end with a huge kill which gave UB match point at 14-12. A Kent State kill cut the lead to 14-13, but Hornbaker recorded perhaps the most important kill of her career as she took a Lindsey Schlegel pass and fired a ball across the net, finding the floor and securing the UB victory.
The match didn't start off easy as the Golden Flashes took an early 9-3 lead in the first set forcing the Bulls to use their first timeout. A 5-2 Kent State run caused the Bulls to use their second timeout early in the set. With Kent up 19-7, the Bulls forced a run of their own, scoring eight of the next 13 points and forcing the Golden Flashes to take their first timeout. The Golden Flashes would go on to win the opening set 25-15. Kent State hit extremely well in the first set, hitting at a .429 mark.
The Bulls were the aggressors early on in the second set as they took an early 8-5 lead and forced the Golden Flashes to use a timeout. However, the Golden Flashes came back with a 6-4 run to pull within one at 12-11 as the Bulls used their first timeout of the set. Kent State took their first lead of the set at 15-14, but the Bulls quickly tied it up at 15-15 on a Kent State hitting error. The two teams traded one-point leads back and forth and with the Golden Flashes up 21-20 in the second set, the Bulls used their second timeout. Down 22-20, the Bulls began to climb back using a huge double block fromDani Silvers and Kelsey Lueders and then a Lueders service ace to retie the set. A thunderous kill by Silvers gave the Bulls a one-point advantage as the Golden Flashes used their second of two timeouts. Kent State would tie the match up at 23, but a Golden Flashes service error and a kill from Kristin Bignell gave the Bulls the set at 25-23.
The third set began as a back and forth contest throughout with neither team holding more than a two-point advantage early on. With UB up 16-14, the Golden Flashes rattled off three straight points to take a 17-16 lead as UB used its first timeout. The Bulls then went on to score four of the next five points, including a Schlegel service ace, forcing Kent State to use their first timeout of the set. However, in a set that was a series of runs, the Golden Flashes came back with a 4-1 run of their own and took a 22-21 lead as the Bulls used their second timeout. After UB tied it up at 22-22, the Golden Flashes scored three of the last four points to take the set at 25-23.
Beginning the fourth set, the Bulls capitalized on three straight Kent State errors, taking an early 3-0 lead. UB would go on to score six of the first seven points of the set. A 9-6 Kent State run cut the UB lead to 12-10 as the Bulls used their first timeout. The Bulls extended their lead as a Heather Pyle service ace gave UB an 18-14 advantage as the Golden Flashes used their second timeout. The Bulls ended the set on a 7-5 run as a Kent State service error gave UB the set at 25-19.
"This win is a huge step forward for the program and it is what we have been working for all season," said head coach Todd Kress. "I am so proud of the effort we gave after a poor first set. There were many times that we could have quit but we never did and even though we didn't play our best we fought hard for this victory on the road. Being down 8-4 in the fifth set and coming back shows that we have what it takes to take that next step. This is just a huge day for the program and we are thrilled to be going to Toledo this weekend."
The Bulls got 13 kills from Bignell and 11 kills from both Silvers and Mezzadri, who came off the bench to provide a huge spark for UB. Schlegel had 40 assists and 10 digs, while freshman Tori Beckman led the way with a match-high 23 digs. Pyle added nine digs and a service ace, while Lueders led the way with two service aces.
Kent State had three players in double figures in kills, but the Achilles' heel for the Golden Flashes was 16 service errors. Meredith Paskert had 17 kills while Arjola Prenga had 16 kills and 18 digs. Jenny Keck had a match-high 43 assists.
The Bulls will move on in the MAC Tournament and face the No. 2 seed Western Michigan at 7:00 pm. The Bulls defeated the Broncos earlier this season in five sets.