Toledo Volleyball Outlasts Buffalo in Five Sets

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It was a back-and-forth, heart-stopping affair in Buffalo on Saturday night, but in the end the Toledo women's volleyball team came away with a 3-2 victory (19-25, 25-13, 25-23, 23-25, 15-13) over the Bulls in a crucial Mid-American Conference match. Toledo improves to 12-14 on the season and 7-7 in conference play.

UB won the first set handily and UT cruised in the second, but the final three frames of the evening were about as close as can be. 28 tie scores and 17 lead changes were scattered throughout the final three sets on Saturday, including 10 ties in the abbreviated fifth set alone. It was also Toledo's first win at Buffalo since the 2013 season.

Emma Swope led the team with 14 kills while Annie Beasley (12) and Saige Thomas (10) each had double-digit termination totals as well. Carly Townsend had her ninth double-double of the season, recording 44 assists and 10 digs in the win. Lauren Bakaitis had a team-high 24 digs and Rhyen Neal notched a career-best five service aces to help the cause.

For the weekend, Beasley hit a ridiculous .564 and had 22 kills while Thomas had a team-best 25 kills combined through the two matches. Townsend lent her assistance with 89 assists and Bakaitis was the defensive leader with 39 digs. The Rockets had 21 blocks against the Cardinals and Bulls, with Rachel Vidourek accounting for 10 of those.

Just two regular season matches remain on the schedule for Toledo. Next weekend the Rockets travel to Western Michigan on Friday, Nov. 10 and Northern Illinois on Saturday, Nov. 11 to try and wrap up a spot in the 2017 MAC Tournament.

First Set: Buffalo jumped out to a 7-2 lead to start the match. A kill from Beasley was followed up by six straight points from UB to give the Bulls a big advantage early on. The Rockets did score three straight to come within two, 7-5, but they weren't able to get any closer than that in the first frame. UB would go on to win the first set, 25-19, despite a late rally from the Rockets. UT scored five of the final seven points in the game with big plays from Kleespies and Swope. Thomas had a team-high four kills in the first set.

Second Set: Toledo took the early lead this time, going ahead 5-3. Buffalo wouldn't go away, though, tying the score at 8-8, 9-9, and 10-10. The Rockets then went on to score nine of the next 11 points to take a commanding 19-12 lead. The run was highlighted by consecutive service aces from Neal and punctuated with a big block off the hands of Townsend and Vidourek. The Rockets would end the set on a 15-3 run to emphatically win the second stanza 25-13. Neal was on her game on Saturday, delivering four service aces in the second set alone.

Third Set: The Rockets started the third set up 6-2 with Swope tallying points five and six for UT. The Midnight Blue and Gold held the lead until a Buffalo run gave the Bulls a 14-12 advantage. UB tallied six of the game's eight points at one juncture to go ahead of the Rockets by two. Toledo never backed down, though, fighting back and taking the lead again, 18-17, on a kill from Beasley. In the closest set of the night to that point, Toledo was able to come within one score of winning, 24-21, and eventually did win, 25-23. UT hit .324 in the third frame, the best of any set on Saturday. Swope had five kills and Kleespies had four to lead Toledo to a crucial victory.

Fourth Set: The Bulls scored the first three points of the set to grab an early advantage, but UT fought back and took an 8-6 lead. UB didn't stay down for long, scoring five of the next six points to go up 11-9 on the Rockets. From there it was a back-and-forth affair, with neither team able to really pull away too far from the other. Overall the teams were tied 13 times in the set, including as late as 23-23. From there, Buffalo would score the final two points to take the set, 25-23, force a decisive fifth frame.

Fifth Set: With the score tied at 3-3, Toledo recorded the next three points to go up 6-3. Those three tallies all came from blocks: Thomas and Vidourek stifled a Buffalo attack and then Townsend and Vidourek registered back-to-back blocks to give the Rockets the lead. The Bulls' attack came to life, though, to pound three straight terminations and make all things square at 6-6. UB jumped ahead, 9-7, but Toledo was able to come back and knot it up at 10-10 before a kill from Andrea Stephenson put the Midnight Blue and Gold up, 11-10. Stephenson had two kills in the final frame, the first two kills of her career. Buffalo grabbed the lead, 13-12, but a service error made the score all square at 13-13. An attack error from UB and a final kill from Swope clinched the set and the match for the Rockets.