Volleyball conquers Ball State for first time
Abby Niekamp (15) and Lindsey Schlegel (10) helped the volleyball team end their four-match losing streak by beating conference leader Ball State on Saturday. Karen Larkin / The Spectrum
With the season slowly slipping away, the volleyball team needed to make a statement. They did just that on Saturday night.
For the second consecutive game at Alumni Arena, the Bulls (14-8, 2-4 Mid American Conference) found themselves entrenched in a five-set war. This time, the Bulls were able to escape with a 3-2 (28-26, 20-25, 25-19, 15-13) win over Ball State (14-3, 4-1 MAC).
The Cardinals came into the match as the number one team in the MAC West, adding more significance to the Bulls victory.
"Any time you get a win against a team that's in first place on the other side of the conference…it's a big win," said head coach Todd Kress.
The Bulls got off to a shaky start in the fifth set, falling behind 5-1 early. Things looked bleak when Ball State took an 11-7 lead, and it seemed like the Bulls would again collapse under the pressure.
But senior middle blocker Kayla Govier sent back-to-back kills into the Cardinals' court for Buffalo points as Bulls fans voiced their loudest cheers yet.
With the Bulls down by one point at 13-12, senior middle-blocker Kristin Bignell slammed home a kill to tie the match after stuffing the Cardinals with a huge block on the point before.
Bignell finished the match with 10 kills and a .231 hitting-percentage for the match. She also contributed 10 blocks to lead the team.
Kress was really impressed with how the senior responded under the pressure of the big match.
"[Bignell] had a lot of big blocks," Kress said. "We put her up against their two best hitters and just told her that her job for the night was to shut them down."
With the game all knotted up at 13, junior defensive specialist Heather Pyle blasted a torpedo over the net, forcing a Ball State error to give the Bulls match point. Everyone watching at Alumni Arena rose to their feet.
Ball State committed another error on match point to give the Bulls their second conference win.
"It was really a big win for us," Bignell said. "We've been in a bit of a rut; so this is like the turning point of the season."
The Bulls have five freshmen on the squad and all five saw the court against the Cardinals.
Freshman outside hitter Christine Fritsche really stepped up late in the match for the Bulls. She finished the match with nine kills and a hitting percentage of .368, which was good for second on the team.
The recent struggles the Bulls have faced have forced Kress to start experimenting with his lineup. Senior setter Lindsey Schlegel responded well in the match after being benched last game in favor of freshman setter Dani Reinert. Schlegel finished with a team best .375 hitting percentage and 44 assists in the match.
Kress thinks the performance by his team against Ball State will get the ball rolling back toward the win column for the Bulls.
"We know the answer is there," Kress said. "We've just been struggling to find it, and I think tonight helps us get over the hump."
Buffalo's next match is Friday, Oct. 15 at Western Michigan. The first serve is scheduled for 7 p.m.
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