Despite a rough travel week, the volleyball team picked up a much-needed victory with its season on the line.
The Bulls (18-15, 5-11 Mid-American Conference) traveled to Akron (15-14, 7-9 MAC) for the first round of the 2010 MAC Tournament. The 10th-seeded Bulls blanked the Zips, 3-0 (27-25, 25-17, 25-23), on Akron's home court.
Buffalo seized the match by recording a .231 hitting percentage, giving the team an edge over Akron's .126 percentage. Buffalo's victory is its second-straight win over Akron at Rhodes Arena in the past five days.
With the victory, the Bulls claimed their first 18-win season since 1996.
"Getting a win on the road in the tournament took a huge team effort," said head coach Todd Kress. "We were faced with adversity in the first and third set. At the critical point, key people stepped up."
Akron came storming out of the gates, taking a 12-7 lead in the first set. Buffalo responded with a six-point run to take a 13-12 lead.
The Zips reclaimed the lead and went up 23-20. With Akron two points away from taking the first set, the Bulls answered with a kill from freshman blocker Carissa Mckenna and a service ace from senior Marisa Hornbaker to make the score 23-22.
Akron's costly errors down the stretch opened the door for senior setter Lindsey Schlegel to close the set with a service ace, clinching the set 27-25 for the Bulls.
The Bulls carried the momentum into the second set and took a 6-2 lead before Akron answered with an 11-6 run to take a 13-12 lead. Buffalo regrouped and went on a 13-4 run to take the second set of the match.
In the third set, freshman outside hitter Dana Musil and junior blocker Abby Niekamp led the Bulls defensively.
Throughout the set, Niekamp repeatedly stepped up with crucial kills to keep Buffalo in the lead. Hornbaker added a kill of her own to make the score 24-23 in favor of Buffalo. An Akron hitting error cost the Zips the set and the match.
"Lindsey [Schlegel] ran the show very well offensively and gave us the opportunity to win," Kress said. "We served the ball well. Serving was a big part of the match."
Schlegel finished the match with 31 assists, eight digs, and four kills on five attempts.
Niekamp led the Bulls with 15 kills on 32 attempts on the night. Hornbaker finished off her night with eight kills, only one error, and a .333 hitting percentage.
Freshman libero Kelly Svoboda, the reigning MAC East Defensive Player of the Week, added 21 digs to lead the team.
Buffalo now faces the MAC East regular season champs, the second-seed Ohio Bobcats (18-11, 10-6 MAC). The rivals split their season series, with the Bulls winning in dramatic fashion in the most recent matchup at Alumni Arena.
The Bulls will travel to Toledo, Ohio, where the rest of the tournament is taking place. Quarterfinal action gets underway Friday with Buffalo's match scheduled for 7 p.m.