With the emotion of the week’s news about Monika Šimkova’s medical condition on the minds of the UB Volleyball team, you could be forgiven if you wondered if the Bulls could compete against Duquesne in the opening match of the WNY Invite Tournament. During the pre-game line-up announcements, two Bulls players even held up an empty #14 jersey between them, Šimkova’s jersey. #One4Mon
And then the Bulls went out and absolutely ripped Duquesne to shreds, 25–13, 25–18 and 25–13. Both teams had been 3–3 before the match.
In the first set, Buffalo’s coaching staff had the team serve the ball relentlessly at Duquesne libero Camille Spencer, and Spencer struggled returning serve. That resulted in a large number of poor passes, which slowed down the Dukes offense. It also resulted in five aces, four from UB freshman libero Hannah Jacoby, all in one serving run from Jacoby including three in a row, that took the Bulls from a 9–7 deficit to a 15–9 lead.
But there was more in the first set. Sophomore middle blocker Olivia DeBortoli entered the match as the reigning MAC East Defensive Player of the Week, picking up a career high 9 blocks in the Bulls previous match. ODB then started the match with three blocks in the first 7 points, finishing with 4 blocks in the set.
The second set saw Spencer settle down and return Buffalo’s serves better, but it didn’t really matter as the Bulls continued to play outstanding volleyball the rest of the way. The highlight was Buffalo’s back row defense (senior Kyndal Bacon, sophomore Milla Malik, freshman Maria Futey, freshman Mandy Leigh, Jacoby and senior Kyndal Bacon) made solid dig after solid dig, spectacular diving dig after spectacular diving dig, all night long. I mention Bacon twice because she earned it. Duquesne managed to hit only 0.030 for the match. Can you say “stifling defense”? Whoever has to put together the highlight reel from this game has a lot to choose from.
So the Bulls finished with 11 aces, 9 blocks, hit 0.275 and recorded a dominant win. ODB led the team with 7 blocks (pushing her season average to an unheard of 1.70 blocks per set). She also had a career high 8 kills and hit 0.333 (her previous high was 2 kills), while Buffalo’s other middle blocker, junior Courtney Okwara had 9 kills and hit 0.471. Sophomore right side Emma Gielas led the team with 10 kills and also had 4 blocks. Malik had 14 digs, Futey had 12 and Bacon had 10. Special praise goes to freshman setter Mandy Leigh, who ran the Bulls offense well — when the top three scorers are the right side attacker and the two middle blockers, the setter has done a great job of moving the ball around.
The Bulls face West Virginia at 10am on Saturday, Sept 11. WVU is undefeated and has lost only one set all year. They are coached by former UB head coach Reed Sunahara. The tournament concludes with Buffalo facing Canisius at 4pm. The Golden Griffins are 0–6 and have won only two sets all year.
- Maybe ODB was a little excited getting her first start of the season and then recording three blocks in the first 7 points, as she went back to serve … only to realize that in this lineup, Buffalo’s middle blockers don’t serve, and she was subbed out.
- Sophomore defensive specialist Emilie Davis saw her first action of the season, and on her first play on the court, served an ace.
- Junior middle blocker Abby Leigh was unavailable (concussion) and sophomore middle blocker Lauren Valentic was also in street clothes (I don’t know why), leaving the Bulls with no obvious replacement at the middle blocker position.
- Fun fact: there are eight syllables in ODB’s name. That’s the most of any Bull player since 2014. And poor Paige Beck has only two syllables in her name, the least syllables of any player in over a decade, but actually tied with head coach Scott Smith. (But Beck does have an awesome first name…)
- The crowd was announced at 329, a very strong showing by the volleyball fans. It was the first sporting event held at Alumni Arena since the pandemic began.
- A new public address announcer (I think his name is John) did a fantastic job tonight, even throwing in some commentary such as “fantastic work at the net by the Bulls and then a kill from Gielas”. Give that man an A+.
- Bulls volleyball royalty, all-time leader in assists (by my calculations, anyway) Scout McLerran was in attendance. McLerran is in grad school at UB. A year ago, she won the Clifford Furnas Scholar Athlete award, given to recognize a UB student with outstanding undergraduate performance in both athletics and academics, who demonstrates pronounced leadership and who promises to continue such success through graduate or professional education.
- Post-game comments from ODB and Smith: