Right after the defending Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference champions raised their championship banner, Buffalo's volleyball team lowered the volume of a rowdy Niagara home crowd.
The Bulls (3-1) traveled to Taps Gallagher Center for a Big Four battle with the Niagara Purple Eagles (2-2) in what turned out to be a five-set thriller.
The Purple Eagles' student body was strong in numbers as the school's MAAC championship banner was raised prior to the game. Niagara followed the ceremony by taking the first set, but the Bulls stormed back and eventually bested the Purple Eagles, 3-2, (20-25, 25-12, 25-20, 26-28, 15-12) to secure their third win of the season.
Both teams alternated scoring at the beginning of the first set before the Purple Eagles jumped out to a 16-8 advantage. Buffalo regained their composure and came within two points at 21-19 before dropping the opening set 25-20.
However, the Bulls used the momentum gained from the late run in the first set to overwhelm their opponents and take the second set, 25-12.
"I don't think the first set was who we are as a volleyball team," said head coach Todd Kress. "We really had to regroup and execute our gameplan in the second game, because in the first game we came out and didn't execute what we wanted to do."
The third set produced a similar result as the Bulls took a 2-1 lead in the match with a 25-20 win.
With a leg up on Niagara, the Bulls looked to close out the Purple Eagles in the fourth set but were met with great resistance. Niagara gained set point at 24-21, but the Bulls responded by turning up the pressure.
After rallying off a couple of points, senior hitter Marisa Hornbaker served an ace that hit the net and fell between two Niagara players to tie the set at 24. Buffalo gained set point at 25-24 and again at 26-25, but failed to capitalize and dropped the set, 28-26.
"We know what it's like to be in a fifth game and we know that it's a shorter game," said senior setter Lindsey Schlegel. "We know that you only have 15 points. I think that we just took that mentality right into the game and just said not to stop playing until we got to 15."
The Bulls came out aggressive in the final set when a hard spike from freshman hitter Dana Musil hit the gym floor to give Buffalo a 12-7 lead. After a Niagara timeout, the two teams exchanged points before Niagara gave the Bulls the victory on a service error.
Musil was impressive in the victory after finishing the match with 16 kills, 14 digs and five aces.
"Dana was our rock tonight, there's no doubt about it," Kress said. "She scored, she passed, and a number of times she really helped us in our serve game."
Schlegel's 44 assists topped Niagara's total assists count. Junior Abby Niekamp was also instrumental in the victory for the Bulls in finishing the match with 13 kills and a few key blocks.
The Bulls will seek to build on their current two-game win streak when they host the University at Buffalo Invitational at Alumni Arena. The Bulls will begin competition against Navy on Friday at 11 a.m.