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UB volleyball claims five-set comeback win at Northern Illinois


DEKALB, I.L. -- Despite the huge statistical difference on Saturday night, it was a tight five-set affair for the University at Buffalo volleyball team, but the Bulls prevailed with a 3-2 win over Northern Illinois, their second straight victory.  UB's win improved it to 12-8 on the season and 4-4 in MAC play. 
The Bulls took the contest 19-25, 25-13, 21-25, 25-12, 17-15 as UB outhit NIU, .233 to .174.  Buffalo held an 82-60 advantage in points, a 62-48 lead in kills and an 81-64 lead in digs, but it still came down to a tightly fought fifth set.
After dropping the opening set, the Bulls raced out to a 5-1 lead in the second following a kill from senior Megan Wernette. UB opened a 17-11 advantage on a block from Andrea Mitrovic and Kristina Nieves, forcing the NIU timeout. A kill by Mitrovic bumped the Buffalo lead up to 22-12 and UB clinched the set on an NIU ball handling error.
UB led early in the third set and the teams were tied at 20-20 when NIU scored two straight points to take the lead.  The Huskies went on to take the third set 25-21 and grabbed a 2-1 lead in the match.
However, the Bulls answered in style in the fourth. Buffalo led 9-6 in the fourth when UB scored 10 straight points to increase their advantage to 19-6. Mitrovic had three aces during the Buffalo scoring run. The Bulls cruised to the 25-12 win in the fourth, tying the match up at 2-2.
In the pivotal fifth set, Northern Illinois opened on a 6-3 run. The Huskies continued to lead 8-6 in the fifth when the Bulls scored five straight points, including two kills from Mitrovic, giving Buffalo the 11-8 lead.
UB continued to lead 13-11 when NIU scored the next three points to go ahead 14-13, but the Bulls were able to fight off the match point. The Huskies then fought of a match point of their own, tying the set up at 15-15, but NIU recorded back-to-back hitting errors, clinching the match for Buffalo.
Mitrovic had another 20/20 match as she led Buffalo with 26 kills and 23 digs, leading UB in both categories. Mitrovic also had a strong night from the service line as she finished with a season-high five service aces.
Junior Rachel Sanks had 10 kills on the evening and Wernette added nine kills and just one error.  Junior Polina Prokudina had eight kills and Nieves had six.
Junior Scout McLerran finished with 50 assists, while adding three kills, four service aces, and 11 digs.  McLerran and Mitrovic combined for nine of Buffalo's 12 aces.
Defensively, in addition to Mitrovic's 23 digs, senior Larra Bickelhaupt finished with 17 digs and junior Hannah Watson had 10. UB also had 8.0 blocks on the night, led by four from Wernette.
After being on the road for five of their last six matches, the Bulls will return home next weekend for home matches against Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan.  Both matches will begin at 6pm and are free to the public.  Friday night's match will also air on ESPN+.

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