On Friday, Ohio suffered one of its most heartbreaking losses of the season. On Saturday, it flipped the script and came back from a 2-1 deficit to beat Buffalo 3-2 at home.
After the deflating loss Friday, the Bobcats needed a strong start. They got out to a 15-10 lead midway through set one. Though it didn't last, and the Bulls scored five of the next seven points. The set remained tight, and Anna Kharchynska tied the set at 22 with a kill. However, the Bulls heated up at the perfect time and scored the last three points to win the first set 25-22.
Olivia Margolies and Caroline Clippard scored seven of the first nine Bobcat points. Kharchynska followed up with three kills in four plays to add to their lead. Even though the Bobcats had a four-point lead, it committed a few attack errors, and the Bulls earned a couple of kills to tie the set at 15. Neither team created much separation until Margolies had a kill and a service ace to give the Bobcats a two-point lead. The Bulls scored three straight points to take a 24-23 lead. When the Bobcats needed it the most, Clippard came up with a kill, and Carly Doros and Kharchynska had a block to bring up set point. The Bobcats would win set two 26-24 on a Buffalo attack error to tie the match at one set each.
The Bobcats didn't come out with the same fire in set three and quickly found themselves behind 10-4. The Bobcats trimmed the deficit to two, but could never take the lead. The Bobcats scored three straight points late in the set, making the score 24-20, but the Bulls would ultimately win the set 25-20 on the next play.
Ohio earned a big lead in set four and quickly made the score 10-3, and Caitlin O'Farrell was key for the Bobcats. Margolies helped the Bobcats build their lead with back-to-back kills, but the Bulls made things interesting after Abby Leigh cut their lead to three after four straight kills. The Bobcats triumphed with help from Margolies, who had back-to-back kills. The Bobcats would win set four 25-19 and send the teams to a match-deciding fifth set.
Clippard said Ohio knew it needed to be aggressive in the match-deciding set.
"I think going into the fifth set, one of our biggest goals was to be aggressive and swing aggressive on every play," Clippard said. "I think that's certainly something that we did well, we all had each other's back and and never felt like we were down and we knew from the beginning that we were going to win that set."
The Bobcats built a small lead early in set five, winning five of the first seven volleys. Like they had done all weekend, the Bulls quickly responded with a scoring run that put the Bobcats behind 8-6. The teams split the next six volleys, but the Bobcats weren't willing to give in. Clippard and Kharchynska came up with perfect offensive plays to give the Bobcats a lead, and Maci Watrous' service ace made it 14-11.
Just when it seemed all but over, disaster stuck for the Bobcats. Two straight errors from the Bobcats and a kill from Emma Gielas meant the Bobcats wasted three opportunities to win the match. A Clippard kill momentarily put the Bobcats back on top, but Gielas had back-to-back kills to bring up match point for the Bulls.
The Bobcats needed to score a point to avoid defeat, and once again, Clippard came through. The Bulls would score two of the next three points to put the Bobcats on the brink of defeat again. Once again, the Bobcats escaped as O'Farrell came up with the match-saving kill.
Gielas put the Bulls up for their third opportunity to win the match, but Kristy Frank spoiled the Bulls' chances with a kill. A block by Elizabeth Hoerlein and Frank put the Bobcats on top and brought up match point. After several match points, and several lead changes, Kharchynska won set five 21-19, and the match for the Bobcats with a kill.
Clippard talked about the emotions the team felt after earning the victory Saturday.
"I think we're all really excited especially after yesterday," Clippard said. "We knew that it was going to be a battle, and I think that everyone really showed up today, especially in the fifth set."
The Bobcats had a lot of offensive contributors. O'Farrell led the way with 20 kills, while Clippard and Margolies both had 17 kills.
Ohio coach Geoff Carlston knows the importance of getting a win and splitting the series against a strong Buffalo opponent.
"I told the team I think Buffalo made us better, " Carlston said. "They have some players that are just really smart. They're low air and they made us adapt a lot, so I think they did a lot of really good things that we can put in our back pocket an use down the road.”