BUFFALO, NY – The University at Buffalo volleyball team defeated North Dakota St. 3-1 on Saturday afternoon to claim the Blue and White Classic title as the Bulls finished a perfect 3-0 on the weekend. It is UB's first 3-0 start to a season since 2013 and just their third time overall since 1999.
The Bulls took the contest, 22-25, 25-19, 25-21, 25-16, as UB outhit the Bison, .254 to .095. For the second straight match the Bulls had to overcome an early deficit though with North Dakota State winning the opening set.
UB was able to open a 14-9 advantage in the second and continued to build on it as a service ace from junior Polina Prokudina put UB ahead, 17-11. The Bulls continued to lead for the remainder of the set, capping it off on a block from Prokudina and Megan Wernette, giving the Bulls the 25-19 win and tying the match up at 1-1.
The Bison got out to the quick start in the third set, as they opened it on an 8-3 run, but the Bulls got right back into the set, scoring the next four points, including a pair of kills from Wernette. With NDSU leading 12-8, the Bulls went on a 5-0 run as a kill by sophomore Andrea Mitrovic put UB ahead, 13-12. North Dakota State would retake a 21-18 lead in the set, but the Bulls would hold them scoreless, scoring the final seven points thanks to the service of freshman Paige Beck, who had an ace during the run.
The Bison held a couple early one-point leads in the fourth set, but for the most part the Bulls dominated the action. They got out to the 14-11 lead on a kill from Mitrovic as the Bison took a time out. Like in the third set, the Bulls scored the final seven points as they took an 18-16 lead and never allowed North Dakota State to score again as a kill from Mitrovic ended the match.
Senior Larra Bickelhaupt was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player, while Wernette and Mitrovic were each named to the All-Tournament Team.
Mitrovic led the Bulls with 22 kills, her second straight 20-kill performance. Junior Rachel Sanks added 10 kills, while Wernette had nine and Prokudina and junior Kristina Nieves each had seven. Junior Scout McLerran had 44 assists to pace the UB offense, to go along with three kills and seven digs.
Defensively, Bickelhaupt and Beck each finished with 11 digs, while Prokudina and Mitrovic had seven. The Bulls finished with 11.0 total blocks, including a career-high six blocks from Prokudina, including two solos. Nieves added four and Wernette had three, McLerran and Mitrovic each had two blocks, including a solo.
The Bulls will now take their talents to the road as they play next weekend at the Cornell Invitational. The tournament will begin Friday night at 7pm when UB faces Cornell in a match that will be broadcasted on ESPN+.