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Volleyball eliminated in first MAC Tournament game

Bulls drop three sets to Western Michigan

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The volleyball team won it in its final two Mid-American Conference games to clinch the eighth and final spot in the conference tournament but was unable to take that momentum in Athens, Ohio Friday.

The No. 8 seeded Bulls (16-15, 6-11 MAC) were eliminated in their first game of the MAC Tournament in Athens Friday, losing to No. 5 Western Michigan (19-13, 9-7 MAC) in straight sets, 25-22, 25-18, 25-19. It was Buffalo’s first conference tournament appearance since 2010.

“I think a little bit of nerves got to us,” said head coach Reed Sunahara. “It was our first time. We were pretty young and we had some inexperienced players on the court. But that’s no excuses. Western played well and we didn’t.”

The Bulls’ best opportunity to win a set was the first one. The Bulls led 19-16 but allowed the Broncos to go on a 9-3 run to close out the set. Western Michigan held large leads throughout the final two sets.

Buffalo was without its kills leader and All-MAC First teamer Tahleia Bishop Friday. Sunahara would not disclose why the junior outside hitter did not play in the tournament, only saying it was a decision he made and it “was combination of a bunch of things.”

Freshman middle blocker Cassie Shado had a team-high nine kills and freshman libero Niki Bozinoski led Buffalo with 17 digs.

Sunahara said the tournament appearance was a good experience for his young roster that includes six freshmen and had no prior MAC Tournament experience.

“It was a great opportunity,” Sunahara said. “They earned it to get there and it’s a standard that we got to have there that that’s our goal every year.”

The Bulls began the season 12-4 but finished just 4-11, including a 2-10 stretch during MAC play. Sunahara said his first season in Buffalo and tournament appearance will help the team improve next season and going forward.

“For everyone, the team and myself, we got a year under out belt. They understand what I want from then and the expectations,” Sunahara said. “They understand how I coach. I think it was a good first year, I think we’re going in the right direction.”

Buffalo still has one match remaining in the season. The Bulls host Albany (10-16, 7-5 American East) next Nov. 29 at 2 p.m. at Alumni Arena.

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