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On the cusp of greatness

Volleyball team closes the season with close losses, feel they can play top seeds in MAC tournament

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The Bulls (15-12, 8-8 MAC) did not have an easy end to their season.

They were pitted against the Bowling Green Falcons (17-10, 13-3 MAC) and the Miami (OH) Redhawks (21-8, 13-3 MAC) this past weekend in their final home and regular season games. The Falcons and Redhawks were the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the MAC, heading into the weekend, respectively.

Despite the Bulls’ best efforts playing four competitive sets against each team, they came up empty losing 3-1 to the Redhawks on Friday and 3-1 to the Falcons on Saturday at Alumni Arena. The Bulls have one major takeaway from the weekend with the MAC tournament only a few days away; they can play with the best.

“For us to just come short of [the win] in four [sets] against the top two teams in the MAC, especially two nights in a row at home where I think we could have won, makes these losses tough,” said head coach Blair Brown Lipsitz. “What I liked about it was that I saw a lot of fight after 20 these past two days, that means they are ready to push to the end.”

The Bulls struggled to bounce back after losing close sets, earlier in the season. They would follow up a competitive first set loss with a subpar second set. Even though they came up short both nights, the Bulls’ lowest scoring set was 19 points for the whole weekend.

These signs of improvement are coming at the right time. The MAC tournament starts on Nov. 16. Their proven ability against the conference's best makes team captain, sophomore setter Scout McLerran, confident in her team.

“Us hanging in both games with the No. 1 and 2 seeds show us that we are right there,” McLerran said. “I think our team should treat this as ‘coming for blood’ in the tournament, as motivation for what we can do.”
On Sunday it was announced that the Bulls will be the No. 5 seed in the tournament, playing No. 8 Eastern Michigan Eagles (15-7, 7-9 MAC) in the first round. The Bulls will go on to play the No. 4 Ohio Bobcats (16-14, 10-6 MAC) in the second round if they win.

McLerran said the Bulls would be looking to make history at the tournament regardless of which team they face.

“We are a high risk high reward team, but our highs are ridiculous,” McLerran said. “I could see us going in there and blowing people away.”

Brown Lipsitz praised the offensive performance of freshman outside hitter Andrea Mitrovic after the game on Saturday. Mitrovic had 24 kills against the Falcons on Friday. Brown Lipsitz also called attention to junior middle blocker Megan Wernette’s defensive performance and the timing she showed in her play the whole weekend.

“We are seeing a lot of great things we didn’t see earlier in the season. We just have to keep it up and carry it into the MAC tournament next week,” Brown Lipsitz said.

The game against Bowling Green also acted as senior night for the team. Sole senior, middle blocker Cassie Shado, was given an on-court commemoration before the game started involving her family, teammates, coaches and head athletic director Allen Greene.

The team gave Shado a framed jersey along with a cake after the game to celebrate her four years with the Bulls.

“I made my mark here at UB volleyball which makes me really happy and with my family here. It just makes me feel warm about the whole thing,” Shado said.

The celebration did not detract Shado from staying focused on the games ahead. She feels the Bulls can play with the best. For Shado, that is enough to make her optimistic for the MAC tournament.

“That was the No. 2 seed in conference and we played a close set every time,” Shado said. “It shows us they we deserve to be in the tournament and we can beat the top seed teams.”

With two head coaching changes, single digit win seasons and now the best MAC season in program history behind her, Shado looks to be a part of one last accomplishment; winning the MAC championship.

Thomas Zafonte is the senior sports editor and can be reached at thomas.zafonte@ubspectrum.com


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