The University of Akron volleyball team’s Mid-American Conference season ended Tuesday night with a loss to the University of Buffalo Bulls in straight sets. The match marked the first time since 2003 that the Zips hosted a MAC tournament match.
In an interesting twist, Akron also hosted and lost to Buffalo last Thursday evening.
The way a tournament shakes out, you never know if you’re going to get a second shot at a team, Head Coach Ron Arenz said in a pregame interview. Especially as quickly as this is; it’s only been five days since we played them.
Arenz was hopeful that the lessons learned in the loss to the Bulls Thursday would be helpful during Tuesday’s match. Unfortunately, lessons learned did not seem to translate to the team’s play on the court.
The first set was a battle as the Zips and Bulls traded points for most of the set.
UA eventually took a 24-22 lead late in the set, but Buffalo tied it at 24. The Zips pulled ahead 25-24, but the Bulls forced three straight Akron errors to win the set 27-25.
Akron was unable to find any offensive flow during the first set, achieving a meager .070 hitting percentage.
In the second set, the Zips found themselves in an early 7-1 hole, a problem that has plagued the squad often during their recent losing streak. Arenz attributes this to the caliber of his team’s competition.
In our league, everyone is getting better; any team is close to beating any other team, Arenz said. Our set with Buffalo was indicative of what the conference as a whole is like. The team that puts on the most pressure is the one that ends out on top.
Arenz’s assessment of the situation was accurate, as the Zips went on to lose the set 25-17.
In what proved to be the final set at the James A. Rhodes Arena this year, Akron once again fell behind early. As the Zips have done so often this season, they battled back from 12-6 to tie the set at 15.
The lead continued to go back and forth between the two teams, but a set of kills from the Bulls and a late error from the Zips gave the Bulls the 25-23 set victory.
Although Akron was eliminated from MAC tournament play, there is still one more tournament on their horizon.
UA will travel to Long Beach, California to participate in the Mizuno Thanksgiving Tournament on Nov. 26 and 27. The Zips will take on Seattle, Long Beach State and UC-Irvine.
Despite the MAC tournament ending for Akron as quickly as it started, there is reason for optimism. Akron will be looking to build upon their most successful season since 2003 and use a core group of players to achieve this feat.
UA will have 11 of the 12 current players on their roster returning for next year’s season, and have used this year as an opportunity to develop talent and leadership on the team.
Juniors Tina Dimitrijevs, Courtney Jarvis and Chelsea Harvey will each be an important part of this group.
Tina [Dimitrijevs] has really stepped it up for us this year, Arenz said. She wants to put this team on her back and get us where we need to go; she has become a rock for us.
Jarvis and Harvey have been consistent statistical leaders on the team all year, and will need to bring the same level of play next year for this team to advance further into the MAC tournament next season.
Mid-season surprises Alex Cocklin and Alex Wiederholt are among a group of five freshmen looking to contribute even more to the team next year.
The Zips will look to this core group of players to help them work toward their goal of winning a MAC Championship next year.