OXFORD — The Miami University volleyball team closed out an amazing regular season with a dominating 3-0 (25-12, 25-16, 25-16) victory over Buffalo on Senior Day Saturday. With the win, the RedHawks won their first Mid-American Conference regular season championship since 1998. Miami improves to 23-5 overall and 15-1 in the MAC. The Bulls close the season 4-25 overall and 3-13 in the MAC.
The RedHawks have secured the top seed in next weekend’s MAC Tournament in DeKalb, Ill. They will receive a bye directly to the semifinals and will see their first action on Saturday. In addition, Miami has earned the right to host the 2017 MAC Tournament which will take place in late November next year. In her final match at Millett Hall, senior outside hitter Maris Below recorded 10 kills to go along with two blocks and five digs. She had a .450 attack percentage for the match. Senior outside hitter Stela Kukoc also tied for the team lead with 10 kills. She made it a double-double with 14 digs.
Knowing the stakes going into the match, the RedHawks did not come out nervous as they jumped to a 5-0 lead to begin set one. Two kills from Below, along with a kill from Kukoc and a block by junior middle hitter Meredith Stutz and junior right side hitter Olivia Rusek helped push the advantage to 11-4 and forced Buffalo to use a timeout. Out of the break, Kukoc put down two more kills, while junior libero Maeve McDonald had a service ace. Rusek recorded a kill off an assist from senior setter Krista Brakauskas to give Miami it largest lead at 18-4. A 7-2 run by the Bulls go them to within nine, but the deficit was too big to overcome. Junior right side hitter Katie Tomasic put down back-to-back kills to finish off a 25-12 win.
Tied at six in set two, senior middle hitter Paige Hill put down two straight points to start a RedHawk run. Leading 12-10, three kills from junior right side hitter Katie Tomasic were part of a 5-0 run that put Miami in control at 17-10. The Bulls kept it to within six for a while, but with the RedHawks on top, 22-16, kills from Below, Hill and Tomasic completed a 25-16 victory.
Set three was tight early. With Miami on top 10-9, a kill and a service ace from Kukoc, along with kills from Hill and Rusek helped the `Hawks take control. A kill by Hill off an assist from sophomore setter Mackenzie Zielinski made it 20-12 in favor of MU, completing a 10-3 run. Leading 22-13, two kills from junior right side hitter Katie Coverdale gave the `Hawks match point at 24-14. Buffalo fought it off twice, but a kill from Kukoc finished a 25-16 win and gave Miami the MAC Championship.
Tomasic recorded nine kills and had a .471 attack percentage. Hill finished with eight kills, while Rusek had six. Zielinski led Miami with 21 assists, while Brakauskas had 17. McDonald finished with 15 digs.
As a team, the RedHawks had a .330 attack percentage and held the Bulls to a .093 attack percentage. Miami will play in the MAC Semifinals against either the four, five or eight seed on Saturday, Nov. 19 at 6 p.m. (EST).