BOWLING GREEN - For the sixth time in the last nine matches, the Bowling Green State University volleyball team found itself in the middle of a five-set match. And for the sixth straight time, the Falcons found a way to pull out the contest, defeating Buffalo 25-17, 21-25, 25-22, 19-25, 15-9 Friday night in the Stroh Center.
Bowling Green retained sole possession of second place in the Mid-American Conference, improving to 16-9 overall and 11-2 in conference play. The Falcons clinched a top five seed for the MAC Tournament in two weeks and inched closer to one of the top two seeds.
Buffalo entered the match at just 2-10 in conference play but the Bulls have always given Bowling Green fits. The Falcons won a hard-fought four-setter over Buffalo earlier this year after being swept in the season series by the Bulls a year ago. Even after Bowling Green rolled to a 25-17 victory in the first set, Buffalo never folded.
The Falcons hit .542 in the opening stanza, recording 14 kills on 24 swings with just one attack error. Although Bowling Green had just 10 digs and went without a block in that first frame, the offensive firepower was enough for the Falcons to roll through the opening set.
But the offense began to flounder in the second set and the Falcons hit just .091 in that frame. The defense was not producing either as Bowling Green had only 11 digs and again went without a block as Buffalo evened the match with a 25-21 win.
It looked like Buffalo might take control of the match for good in the third set as the Bulls built a 17-14 lead and were poised to go ahead in the contest. But Leah Shaw sparked the Falcons with three kills to get the set tied up at 18-18. The frame remained tied at 22-22 before Danielle Tonyan and Lindsey Butterfield had back-to-back kills and Ashley Dunn closed it out with an ace for a 25-22 win.
Even though the Falcons had momentum heading into the fourth set, Buffalo struck back quickly scoring the first four points of the frame and never looking back. The Bulls built an eight-point lead and held on for the 25-19 win to force a fifth set.
Once the fifth set began, Bowling Green settled into a comfort zone. The Falcons never trailed and used a seven-point spurt after the score was tied at 3-3 to pull away. BGSU had three blocks during the run and a pair of kills from Butterfield. The Falcons ended the match with a block for the 15-9 win.
After going without a block in the first two sets, the Falcons had 10.0 over the final three sets, five each from Shaw and Kaitlyn Skinner. Shaw had a strong all-around match, adding 10 kills and a career-best four aces. She was one of four players with at least 10 kills as Tonyan and Paige Penrod had 15 apiece and Butterfield ended with 13.
The Falcons hit .232 for the match, but most of that came on the strength of that .542 first set and a .375 fifth. Bowling Green had a season-high 10 aces in the contest with only six serving errors. Buffalo also had 10 aces but had twice as many service errors with 12.