The Buffalo State volleyball team played for a conference championship and automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament for only the second time in its history Sunday afternoon.
But the magical ride ended for the Bengals, who made too many unforced errors against 17th-ranked Cortland, which earned a 26-24, 25-20, 25-21 victory in the State University of New York Athletic Conference championship game at the Buffalo State Sports Arena.
The Bengals played well in spurts, but lacked the consistency necessary to generate the momentum to sustain a lead.
“I think it was a lot of mental errors,” second-year head coach Maria DePeters said. “I thought that we played more like individuals than we did like a team. That goes hand in hand with the mental aspect of the match. We were just making our own errors.”
“Maybe it came down to we were too excited,” said junior setter Kelsey Bashore. “There’s a couple points where we could have just relaxed and recovered a bit from mistakes but it was just a really fast game today. I don’t think we had the time in the match to recover.”
Bashore finished with 22 assists and 11 digs. Sherrell McLean (City Honors), the lone senior on the team, had nine kills for the Bengals. Sophomore Sam Parente had eight kills and five blocks.
Freshman Kayla Pyc (Grand Island) had five kills and six blocks while junior Chelsea Moore (Kenmore West) had 28 digs.
Parente and Moore were all-tournament selections.
At 26-8 overall, Buffalo State has a chance to nab an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament when the field is announced this morning.
Whether they make it or not, the Bengals had an impressive season. This was their first appearance in the SUNYAC title game since 1997. The 26 wins is the third most in school history. And perhaps just as intriguing is that the Bengals return all but one player next season.
“Sherrell is a big loss in the middle. She played phenomenal for us this year,” DePeters said. “But with having a full starting roster come back next year it makes me very excited and anxious to see what we’re going to do and what we’re going to accomplish next year.
“When I came into the program, my biggest thing was the love of the game, because at Division III we don’t play for scholarships,” DePeters said. “We play because we want to play and to make a family out of the team. And that’s what the girls are. They’re a family on and off the court. And when you have that in your program you just see essentially magic on the court.”
Medaille wins title
Medaille will make its first NCAA tournament appearance in women’s volleyball after the Mavericks defeated regular season champion Penn State-Behrend in the finals of the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference.
The Mavs dropped the first set, 19-25, then came back to win the next three, 25-18, 25-10, 25-21. Senior Meghan Fahy paced the Mavs with 25 kills, 17 digs and four blocks.
Medaille started the season 0-6 but used an 11-match winning streak to get to the title game.
Medaille (17-12) will learn its opponent in the NCAA Tournment when the bracket is announced at 11 a.m. today.