No place like home
Bulls end losing streak, split the weekend
Published: Sunday, October 21, 2012
Updated: Monday, November 5, 2012 20:11
The volleyball team faced its toughest stretch of the season recently. Six of the Bulls’ first eight conference games were on the road, and they won only one of those eight games.
The Bulls (8-14, 2-8 Mid-American Conference) finally made it back to Alumni Arena on Friday night when they took on Central Michigan (12-9, 6-4 MAC). A 3-1 victory over the Chippewas snapped their five-game skid and gave them some much-needed confidence as they enter the final stretch of the season. But they couldn’t continue that momentum on Saturday, losing to Eastern Michigan (14-12, 4-6 MAC) 3-1.
“I am very proud of the effort the entire team put out there tonight,” head coach Todd Kress said in a press release after Friday’s game. “It was a rough stretch for us on the road, but we are thrilled to be back home and that energy showed on the court tonight.”
Central Michigan is the defending MAC champion and it was the Bulls’ first win over the Chippewas since 2005.
The first set on Friday ended in thrilling fashion. The Bulls took the lead 22-19, but the Chippewas stormed back and only trailed 24-23. On the next possession, freshman Megan Lipski sealed the set with a booming kill.
Hot starts proved to be the key for the remainder of the match. The Bulls pounded the opposition early, taking a 19-9 lead in the second set, which led to an easy victory and a 2-0 lead in the game.
But Central Michigan did not go down without a fight. The third set was tight, as neither team led by more than two points. In the end, the Bulls weren’t able to complete the sweep and gave up the set 28-26.
Buffalo put it away in the fourth set. Another hot start got the Bulls off to an 11-6 lead and eventually they closed out the match with a 25-21 victory.
“I thought we were operating on all cylinders,” Kress said. “I thought we played solid volleyball. It was maybe our best match of the season, as far as all phases.”
Four Bulls finished the match with double-digit kills, including freshman Tahleia Bishop, who led the team with 14 kills. Fellow freshman Kayla Yingling started at libero for the first time in her career and it proved to be the right decision, as Yingling finished the match with 28 digs.
Sophomore Liz Scott continued to shine and had a career night on Friday. Her 13 kills, 10 digs and career-high 10 blocks gave Scott her first career triple-double.
The team didn’t get much rest the next day and had to face Eastern Michigan the following night. The Eagles outhit the Bulls .247 to .166.
“I thought we were flat coming out of the gate,” Kress told The Spectrum after the game. “It is disappointing because I thought yesterday was probably the best complete match that we have played all season.”
After going down 2-0 through the first two sets, the Bulls came out of the break inspired to make a comeback. They took the third set 26-24 and decreased the Eagles’ lead to 2-1.
In the fourth set, the Eagles came out poised and looked to get out of Alumni Arena with the victory. They took a comfortable 20-13 lead, but the Bulls rallied again and won seven straight points to tie the game. Their effort was not enough, however; the Eagles took control and won the set 25-23 to take the match.
“In the third set, we knew it was do or die so we went at it and they came back strong, too, so it was just a good game in the third and fourth set,” Scott said. “If we start our matches like that, then we’ll win more.”
For the second consecutive night, the Bulls had four players finish with double-digit kills. Junior Carissa McKenna tied the team-high with 11 kills and led the Bulls with a .346 hitting percentage. Scott and Bishop also chipped in with 11 kills on the evening.
But the Eagles’ Rachel Iaquaniello was the star of the night. She pulverized her way to a game-high two kills.
The Bulls will attempt to rebound from the loss next weekend, when they’ll finish their four-game home stand. The next match is set for Thursday at 7 p.m. when Akron (12-10, 5-5 MAC) comes to town.