Bulls Close Out Weekend With Comeback Win Over Butler

Larra Bickelhaupt

FAYETTEVILLE, AR – For the third straight weekend the University at Buffalo volleyball team has defeated a Big East program as the Bulls came back from a two-set deficit to defeat Butler, 3-2 on Saturday night.  It was a good answer from the Bulls who fell to Arkansas 3-0 earlier in the day.  UB is now 6-3 on the year following the win.

The Bulls took the match over the Bulldogs 18-25, 22-25, 27-25, 25-16, 17-15 as the Bulls outhit Butler, .215 to .179. It was a breakout night for sophomore setter Tia Gleason, who had a career-high 53 assists to go along with 17 digs.

After Butler took the opening set, UB was able to keep things tight in the second as it was all tied at 10-10 when Butler went on an 8-2 run.  The Bulls were able to fight all the way back as back-to-back aces from Gleason tied it up at 19-19.  UB pulled back within 23-22, but Butler scored the final two points to take the 2-0 lead in the match.

UB needed to respond in the third set to keep the match alive and it did so early, opening a 13-10 lead on a kill from junior Kristina Nieves. A service ace from Nieves put the Bulls back ahead 19-17 and a block from Nieves and Gleason gave Buffalo the 24-21 lead.  However, Butler fought off three set points to tie it back up, but with the set tied at 25-25, the Bulls got a pair of kills from junior Polina Prokudina to clinch the set.

The Bulls dominated the fourth set as they pulled away from Butler, extending their lead to 21-14.  A kill from Nieves clinched the set and sent UB to a fifth set for the third time this season.

Buffalo scored four of the first five points of the fifth set, but ultimately found itself down 10-9 when the Bulls scored four straight points to take a 13-10 lead. A kill from sophomore Andrea Mitrovic put UB up 14-11, but the Bulls couldn't put away that match as Butler scored the next three points to tie it up.  With the set all tied at 15-15, UB got a kill from junior Rachel Sanks to go back ahead and a Butler attack error ended the set and clinched the comeback win for UB.

Mitrovic tied her career high with 24 kills, while Nieves and Prokudina each finished with 11 kills.  Sanks added nine and senior Megan Wernette added seven.  In addition to Gleason's 53 assists, the Memphis transfer also finished with two of the team's eight service aces.

Defensively, the Bulls had five players finished in double figures in digs as they finished with a team-high 84 as a team.  Senior libero Larra Bickelhaupt had a team-high 21 digs, while Gleason added 17 and freshman Paige Beck finished with a career-high 16. Mitrovic recorded 13 and junior Hannah Watson finished with a season-high 12.

The Bulls had 6.0 total blocks led by Nieves, who finished with six blocks of her own, including two solos.

It was a good answer for the Bulls, who struggled earlier on Saturday in the 3-0 loss to the host Arkansas Razorbacks.

Arkansas took the afternoon match by identical 25-18, 25-18, 25-18 scores as it outhit the Bulls, .326 to .137.

Mitrovic led the Bulls with 14 kills, while Nieves added six kills and just one error, hitting .455 in the match.

Gleason had 28 assists in the match, while defensively, Bickelhaupt led the Bulls with 13 digs.  The team finished with 7.0 total blocks, led by four from Wernette.

The Bulls will close out non-conference action next weekend when they head to Washington D.C. for three matches beginning Friday night against American.