Box Score (PDF)
By Mike Ashcraft
AMHERST, N.Y. -- The Ohio volleyball team (6-9, 0-1 MAC) could not capitalize on a first-set victory and fell to Mid-American Conference East Division rival Buffalo (8-4, 1-0 MAC), 3-1 (21-25, 25-21, 25-14, 25-17), in the opening match of 2017 league play on Friday (Sept. 22) at Alumni Arena.
"Buffalo did a nice job serving aggressively and defending with intensity," said fourth-year head coach Deane Webb.
The Bobcats hit .168 (45 kills-24 errors-125 total attacks) while the Bulls recorded a .269 (56 kills-21 errors-130 total attacks) hitting percentage. Buffalo outblocked Ohio, 11-7. Ohio was plagued by 10 reception errors.
"Our serve receive must improve for us to be successful," said Webb.
Freshman middle blocker Tia Jimerson (Sugar Hill, Ga.) tied for the team lead with 13 kills and hit at a .346 rate for the Bobcats. She also tallied an assisted block, a service ace and six digs. Sophomore outside hitter Lizzie Stephens (Dallas, Texas) also posted 13 kills in addition to tying sophomore libero Meredith Howe (Grand Rapids, Mich.) for the team lead with two service aces and totaling six digs. Sophomore setter/outside hitter Stephanie Olman (Maumee, Ohio) recorded nine kills and two total blocks (one solo, one assisted). Redshirt senior middle blocker Ali Lake (Liberty Township, Ohio) finished with five kills, two assisted blocks and a dig. Sophomore middle blocker/outside hitter Sara Januszewski (Oak Creek, Wis.) led Ohio with four total blocks (two solo, two assisted) and also added three kills and an assist. Freshman setter Vera Giacomazzi (San Vendemiano, Italy) handed out 34 assists in addition to chipping in two kills, an assisted block and eight digs. Freshman libero Macy Reihing (Lexington, Ky.) led the squad with 13 digs and also had four assists.
"It was good to see Steph continue to grow and improve as an outside hitter," said Webb.
Sophomore outside hitter Polina Prokudina tallied a double-double for Buffalo with a match-high 15 kills and 14 digs. The reigning MAC East Division Offensive Player of the Week also recorded an assisted block, a service ace and two assists. Senior middle blocker Cassie Shado hit .478 with 13 kills and tied for the match lead with five total blocks (three solo, two assisted). She also had a dig. Freshman outside hitter Andrea Mitrovic also tallied 13 kills in addition to posting a match-high three service aces as well as a solo block, two assists and eight digs. Junior middle blocker/right side hitter Megan Wernette finished with seven kills and tied for the match lead with five assisted blocks. She also logged two service aces, an assist and a dig. Sophomore middle blocker Kristina Nieves contributed four kills and four assisted blocks. Sophomore setter Scout McLerran achieved a double-double with a match-high 41 assists to go along with 11 digs. She also had four kills, two service aces and two assisted blocks. Junior libero/defensive specialist Larra Bickelhaupt chipped in 13 digs, a service ace and three assists.
The match began with Ohio hitting .235 with 13 kills while limiting Buffalo to a .167 hitting percentage in the opening set en route to a four-point win. The Bobcats broke a 10-all tie by scoring five of the next six points, taking advantage of kills by Jimerson, Giacomazzi and Stephens. Buffalo answered by going on an 8-3 run to grab a 19-18 edge, utilizing double blocks by Shado and Nieves and Wernette and Nieves and kills by Wernette, Mitrovic and Prokudina to force Ohio to burn a timeout. The Bobcats responded by closing out the set victory with a 7-2 run powered by two kills apiece by Olman and Jimerson, a solo block by Olman and a service ace by Howe.
The Bobcats looked to be on their way to a 2-0 lead in the match after jumping out to a 14-9 advantage in the second set. Four kills by Stephens and a solo block by Januszewski helped Ohio build up the early edge. The Bulls retaliated with a 9-1 run that gave Buffalo an 18-15 lead and forced Ohio to call timeout, though. Kills by Prokudina and Wernette, a double block by Wernette and McLerran and a service ace by Bickelhaupt helped spark Buffalo's rally. The Bobcats came back with a 6-2 run to grab a 21-20 edge, using kills by Lake, Olman and Jimerson. Jimerson's kill marked Ohio's last point of the set, though, as five kills by Mitrovic and another by Shado sealed a come-from-behind win in the second set to even the match at one-all.
The Bulls used the momentum from their second-set triumph to roll to an 11-point win in the third set and take a 2-1 lead in the match. Buffalo hit .333 with 14 kills while holding Ohio to a .086 hitting percentage. Shado guided the Bulls to the victory with four kills and three total blocks (two solo, one assisted) while Mitrovic pitched in four more kills.
Ohio held a 9-8 edge in the fourth set after a kill by Jimerson, but it marked the final lead of the match for the Bobcats as a kill by Shado and an attack error by Ohio gave Buffalo a lead it never relinquished. Four kills apiece by Shado and Prokudina helped power the Bulls to an eight-point match-clinching victory.
Ohio looks to bounce back on Saturday (Sept. 23) when it visits MAC East Division rival Akron (5-8, 1-0 MAC) for a 5 p.m. ET contest at James A. Rhodes Arena. The Zips opened MAC play with a 3-1 (25-27, 25-15, 25-18, 25-23) triumph over East Division archrival Kent State on Friday at the JAR. The Bobcats have taken 13-straight meetings from Akron.