ITHACA, NY – The University at Buffalo volleyball team responded to their first defeat of the season in a big way on Saturday as the Bulls won a pair of matches to close out play at the Cornell Invitational taking down previously unbeaten St. John's 3-2 and Siena, 3-0.
The Bulls opened the day with a big five set win over St. John's as Buffalo handed the Red Storm their first loss of the season. UB took the contest 25-14, 19-25, 25-19, 22-25, 15-13 as the Bulls outhit the Red Storm, .213 to .181.
Buffalo went on a huge run in the first set as it led St. John's 8-7 when UB scored six straight points to open up a 14-7 advantage. In all, it was a 17-7 run for the Bulls to close out the opening set, which was capped off on a kill from junior setter Scout McLerran.
The Red Storm came back to win the second set, but the Bulls went back ahead with a victory in the third. A block from junior Polina Prokudina opened an 11-7 lead for Buffalo as St. John's called the timeout. The Bulls clinched the set on a kill from senior Megan Wernette. The Red Storm came back to win the fourth set, forcing a fifth for the second straight day.
St. John's opened a 5-2 advantage as the Bulls called the early timeout. However, an ace from freshman Paige Beck capped off a quick 4-1 run to tie it back up. With the set tied at 11-11, the Bulls scored three straight points to take a 14-11 lead on a kill from junior Rachel Sanks. St. John's scored the next two points, but another kill from Sanks clinched the set and the match.
Sanks led the Bulls with a career high 17 kills as she finished with just four errors, hitting .406. Prokudina added 15 kills, while Kristina Nieves had a career-best 12 kills as she hit .500. McLerran dished out a season-high 50 assists.
Defensively, senior Larra Bickelhaupt had a career-high 28 digs, while sophomore Andrea Mitrovic added 16 and Prokudina completed the double-double with 11. The Bulls had 15.0 total blocks, including 10 solos on the afternoon. McLerran had three solo blocks, while Nieves had five total blocks, including two solos.
In the second match, the Bulls dominated Siena, defeating the Saints, 25-12, 25-16, 25-22, as the Bulls outhit their opponents, .293 to .100. In a contest that was so thoroughly dominated by UB, the Bulls were able to play many of their reserves in the final set, including transfer setter Tia Gleason.
It was the performance from the service line that put the Bulls in the position to succeed. UB finished with 13 aces in the victory, led by five from Beck, who finished the afternoon with seven aces overall. Mitrovic added four service aces, while Prokudina finished with three.
Prokudina and Mitrovic led the way with nine kills each and Wernette had seven kills and just one error as she hit .667 for the night. McLerran had 20 assists in two sets of action, while Gleason registered eight in the third set.
The Bulls will go back to the road next weekend as they head to Fayetteville, AK for the Arkansas Classic. It will be a loaded field as the Bulls will face Northwestern, Arkansas, and Butler.