Theme Nights Yield Mixed Results for Bulls
The volleyball team was lost after a tough October, but Buffalo's performance this weekend showed that it is moving in the right direction.
The Bulls (16-14, 4-10 Mid-American Conference) hosted a pair of matches against the Ohio Bobcats (15-12, 7-7 MAC) and the Kent State Golden Flashes (11-18, 4-10 MAC). Buffalo split the matches, defeating Ohio on Friday night, 3-2 (20-25, 25-15, 26-24, 20-25, 15-12) and dropping its Saturday match against Kent State, 3-1 (25-15, 23-25, 25-20, 25-21).
Alumni Arena was lively and rocking during Friday's contest. With fans dressed for a day at the beach and the marching band shaking the walls of the building, the Bulls put forth a performance worthy of the roaring audience.
The Bulls have only defeated the Bobcats twice in the program's history. Buffalo's only other win came on Oct. 31, 1999.
"It was a good gutty win," said head coach Todd Kress. "It was a huge win confidence-wise for the team. The ladies understand that they can play with anyone in the conference if they go out and set their minds to it."
The Bulls lost their previous meeting with the Bobcats in straight sets. This did not stop them from defending their home court.
After a slow start, Buffalo caught fire, and Ohio had trouble answering back. The Bulls were led on offense by junior middle blocker Abby Niekamp, who finished with 15 kills and a .370 hitting percentage, and senior middle blocker Kayla Govier, who had 14 kills and a .324 hitting percentage.
Defensively, the Bulls were anchored by freshman libero Kelly Svoboda. Svoboda had 25 digs, 10 more than any other player on the court. She played all over the court and refused to let Ohio gain the sort of advantage that it had over the Bulls in their previous meeting.
"They came out and destroyed us last time," Svoboda said. "We came out here and took what we learned about them last time. We knew that we could beat them and we did."
Buffalo could not repeat its dominating performance the next night against Kent State. Before the match began, the Bulls honored all of their seniors. In addition, the Buffalo program showed sportsmanship by also acknowledging the seniors on the rival squad.
Unlike the previous night, the Bulls failed to gain control of the play on the court. They could not overcome the type of errors that have plagued them recently.
"We just did not show up," Kress said. "It's frustrating when a team can't find the same energy night after night."
The Bulls were once again led on offense by Niekamp, who recorded 11 kills and a .259 hitting percentage. The Bulls looked to regain the previous night's form, but the team's 24 errors were too much to overcome.
Buffalo could not find an answer for the Flashes' freshman setter Aleksandra Nowak. She dominated Buffalo with nine kills, a .727 hitting percentage, and 36 assists.
Despite Saturday's loss, it was a positive weekend for Carissa McKenna, Buffalo's freshman middle blocker. McKenna has seen an increased workload over the past two weekends, and she has not disappointed.
Coming off a weekend in which McKenna was named the MAC East Defensive Player of the Week, she came out and continued to have success. She finished the match against Ohio with a .667 hitting percentage, the highest on the team. She faded late in the match against Kent State, but she finished the first three sets with a .750 hitting percentage.
"For a freshman, she is doing a very nice job," Kress said. "She's high energy. She keeps working in every rotation and she drives in transition."
The season is winding down, and the Bulls only have two more regular season matches before the MAC Tournament begins. The team will look to continue moving in the right direction and finish strong.
The Bulls take to the court again on Friday against Akron at 7 p.m. at James A. Rhodes Arena.