Fans lift Bulls to Blue and White Championship
Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 19:11
The action was tense and the stands were packed for a weekend slate full of hard-hitting, fast-paced volleyball action. The lights were on center court of Alumni Arena Friday and Saturday, as fans held their breath with every serve, set and spike.
Buffalo (6-6), in front of a record setting crowd of 1,010 fans, grinded its way through the weekend to go 3-0, capping off the weekend with a stunning straight-set victory over in-state rival Syracuse (7-6) in the Blue and White Classic.
“I can’t thank our student section and the other student athletes that came out enough,” said head coach Todd Kress. “[There] was so much student athlete support tonight, and I want to thank the students, each and every one of them.”
The Bulls got the weekend going right away as they jumped out to an early two-set lead against Dartmouth (1-8). Buffalo would falter in the next two sets, allowing the Big Green to creep their way back into the match. The Bulls dropped the third and fourth sets both by a score of 25-20.
“We came out of the locker room flat,” Kress said. “We didn’t execute. [There] were a lot of unforced errors and some real sloppy play.”
Buffalo rallied and put away Dartmouth, 15-11, in the fifth set because of its strong defense. Sophomore hitter Liz Scott had the final kill of the match.
“I think it was a great team effort. I think defense won it in the end,” Scott said. “In the fifth set we knew we had dragged it out too long and we had to get it done. We worked hard and got it done.”
The Bulls jumped out to yet another two-set lead against Hartford (5-10). There was no comeback this time, as Buffalo took a commanding 8-0 lead in the third set and didn’t look back. Buffalo continued to take control of the match, winning by a dominating score of 25-5.
“We just didn’t make many errors,” Kress said. “We kept the ball off the ground defensively and when you don’t make many errors you are going to put yourself in a nice position.”
Buffalo would get some much needed few hours of rest and recovery before the night cap match with a tough Syracuse squad.
“We just wanted to get back, eat, rest and get back in here and prepare for tonight,” Kress said. “We need to continue to get better. They’re good. They just beat the No. 18 team in the country this past weekend in Iowa State. They are good on all levels so we need to be ready to go.”
The first set pushed the Bulls to the limit and forced them to fend off two set points. Buffalo had the opportunity to slam the door shut on Syracuse but failed to convert. A sizzling left side shot by junior hitter Dana Musil barely missed the court as it skimmed inches wide of the line.
“It was a highly, highly competitive first set,” Kress said. “Both teams had opportunities to win that set and we had a couple overpasses we didn’t put away. We had a couple swings to win the set that we didn’t put away.”
The set continued to wind down a twisting path as the set pushed past the 25-point mark.
With the set at 29-28 in favor of the Bulls, Buffalo put home a kill that deflected off a Syracuse player and went sailing over the top of press row and into the stands.
“I was a little concerned,” Kress said. “When you get that many opportunities to finish a set and you don’t take advantage of it usually comes back to bite you. So I was very proud of this team that we were able, after the missed opportunities, to come back and find a way to get that [set]. That was a huge, huge momentum boost for us.”
In the second set, Buffalo went on a 7-3 run before Syracuse came roaring back. But the Bulls, backed by True Blue and the record-setting crowd, pulled away and won 25-20.
With momentum on their side, Buffalo seemed to relish the moment and take control of the match in the third set.
Syracuse gave the Bulls all they could handle. But in the end, the crowd and superior Buffalo play was too much for the Orange to handle. Syracuse folded, losing 25-22 to end the match in straight sets.
“The match could have gone either way, but tonight was our night,” Kress said. “We got some breaks, and I thought that our kids fought when we needed to fight. I don’t question their fight tonight at all. The fight was there; the defense was there. They went at it on the block and that’s what we’ve been challenging them all year to do. Tonight was solid.”
Junior setter Dani Reinert and junior libero Kelly Svodoba were both selected to the all-tournament team. Musil achieved the highest honor, earning the Blue and White Classic Tournament’s most valuable player.
Buffalo gave the home crowd what it came to see – a championship.
“It was incredible. Absolutely incredible,” Kress said. “If we can keep this venue like that for home matches this will be a tough place to come in here and win for an opponent. I just know that this weekend we are better than we were last weekend, and hopefully next weekend were better. We’ve got three days to practice and then we’ll be ready to go at it.”
Buffalo will start up Mid-American Conference play later this week as they travel to Ohio to take on rival Akron (7-5). The game is scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m.