Upperclassmen unable to dig Bulls out of Cleveland State troubles
Sophomore Liz Scott (11) and the volleyball team continued their slide over the weekend, losing to Oakland, Eastern Kentucky and Cleveland State at the CSU Invitational. Spectrum File Photo
The defense stood tall at the net, but the offense was absent again for the volleyball team at the Cleveland State Invitational over the weekend.
The Bulls (3-6) were defeated in all three of their matches and only won three of 12 sets in the tournament.
They opened the tournament with a 3-1 loss to Cleveland State (6-3). The Bulls won the first set 26-24, but were unable to top the Vikings, losing the final three sets of the game.
"I thought we played our best match against Cleveland State," said head coach Todd Kress. "Despite what the scores say we could have been 3-0 instead of 0-3. We had a few opportunities where we just weren't finishing."
Junior libero Kelly Svoboda made her first start of the season in the game against Cleveland and was an immediate impact, recording 18 digs and tying for match-high honors.
The entire weekend showed promise for some upperclassmen. Sophomore hitter Liz Scott and junior blocker Carissa McKenna led the team with 11 kills in the first game of the weekend.
Kress believes there is a lot of work for his upperclassmen to do, especially when it comes to closing a game.
"We were really looking for upperclassmen to take advantage of that and take charge when it comes to closing," Kress said. "We're putting ourselves [in situations] where we can be successful, but not sealing the deal. That's kind of the way it's been for a couple years with this group. They have to learn to finish when they put themselves in that situation."
Last week's UBAthletics Athlete of The Week, freshman hitter Megan Lipski, was the star of last weekend's Shamrock Invitational. Lipski contributed to the Bulls' offense and defense in the first game, finishing with nine digs and seven kills.
The Bulls started Saturday with a heartbreaking sweep by Oakland (5-4). The Golden Grizzlies broke open the first set early with a five-point run that led to a 25-15 loss.
The Bulls would never fully recover after being punished in the first set; they dropped the next two sets 25-23 and 25-21. Oakland kept the Bulls hitting to a meager .157 throughout the match.
Kress said the defense could have been better, and it should have stepped up to be the difference maker.
"Our defense was just average the entire weekend," Kress said. "Each of the teams we played had a go-to hitter and a big outside that they could use. Right now we don't have that and we need to outhustle teams and out-defend teams, and we didn't do that. When we understand that this needs to be our foundation for the program, I think things will change for us."
Buffalo's best chance to win came that same evening against Eastern Kentucky (3-6), a team the Bulls swept last weekend. Eastern Kentucky took the first two sets, 25-23 and 25-18. But the Bulls wouldn't go down without a fight as they overcame the deficit and won the next two sets, 27-25 and 25-18.
The match pushed to a fifth set, but the Bulls couldn't complete the comeback and lost 15-12. The downfall was their 18 service errors in the match.
"[We had] too many unforced errors," Kress said. "I felt like [Junior setter] Dani [Reinhert] had an off weekend setting the ball or getting it where it needed to be. She wasn't making any decisions distributing the ball, and when she did make a decision the location was off. So we lost some confidence there."
Junior outside hitter Christine Fritsche landed a season-high 15 kills. The defense was lights-out, Svoboda led the team with 17 digs and junior hitter Dana Musil and Scott also reached double digits in digs, with 14 and 10 respectively. Reinhert finished the match with 47 assists.
Going to five sets was inexcusable for the girls who swept the same team last weekend, according to Kress.
"A different team showed up this weekend," Kress said. "We played with much more confidence last weekend than this weekend. We had a lot of errors. We need our upperclassmen to do their job and lead the way. They didn't do that in that match.
"That match should never have gone five sets against a program that we pretty much dominated at Notre Dame, and this weekend was completely different by our teams."
Next week, the Bulls play at home for the Blue and White Classic. Kress said the girls are excited to finally have a weekend at home. Buffalo will open the tournament on Friday at 7 p.m. against Dartmouth (1-5).
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