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12 Days of Bull Run Christmas: Reed Sunahara and Volleyball

On the eighth day of Christmas, UB gave to me...

Matt Gritzmacher

Back to days where the numbers line up a little better. To celebrate the Eighth Day of Bull Run Christmas, we look to the Volleyball team finishing eighth in the MAC - their highest-ever finish since joining the conference in 1998.

We were able to cover the volleyball team pretty in-depth for the first time this year, as they maintained their momentum of the last few years, overcoming a very tough October with wins in their final two MAC contests to qualify for the conference tournament.

Of course, one of the sneaky-big stories of the year at Bull Run was the coaching turnover in Alumni Arena. Following the dismissal of Todd Kress - which obviously had something to do with off-court matters - UB attracted a big name to Amherst in Reed Sunahara, former UCLA star and Olympic coach.

Once the season came, the Bulls went 17-15 (6-10 MAC), good enough for the program's first consecutive winning seasons since 1995-96, to match their program-high in conference wins, set last year, and for their highest-ever finish in the MAC. At one point the team lost eight of nine contests, dealt with multiple Tahleia Bishop absences, and saw Sunahara change his lineup to a two-setter rotation midway through the year, but still in the least charitable view matched their 2013 effort despite losing a half-dozen seniors, including MAC Defensive Player of the Year Kelly Svoboda.

In the spectrum of UB fall sports, volleyball was a relative afterthought when compared to the tumult of football, the highs of women's soccer, or the program firsts of cross country and tennis. But looking ahead, my money is on 2014 being the year that volleyball began serious upward movement in the MAC. After all, Sunahara is only losing one productive senior (Sable Staller) and got productive sets out of freshmen Cassie Shado, Niki Bozinoski, Skyler Day, and Tessa Ooyama this fall.

For their program-high eighth in the MAC finish under new coach Reed Sunahara, volleyball checks in on the Eighth day of Bull Run Christmas. Tomorrow we visit the successes of a winter team and one of the most successful athletes in school history.