After a rebuilding season in the spring of 2021 where the UB Volleyball team went 4–18, the Bulls only lost one senior to graduation (middle blocker Lexi Nordmann), and so Buffalo has almost the entire team returning, plus three incoming freshman. Coach Scott Smith begins his third season as the Bulls head coach. Two years ago, Smith led the Bulls to the MAC Tournament #7 seed, and the Bulls’ first ever victory in the MAC Tournament “Round of 8”, in a season in which the Bulls started the MAC season at 1–5.
Two of the incoming freshman (setter Mandy Leigh and outside hitter Maria Futey) were starters and played regularly as seniors for the #4 nationally ranked high school team, Padua Franciscan. That team lost only 7 sets all year and went 21–1 for the season, losing only in the Ohio state championship game. Leigh, who stands 6–0, averaged 10.7 assists per set and set Padua to a sparkling team 0.321 hitting percentage. Futey averaged over 3 kills per set and hit 0.316, a big number for an outside hitter.
The other incoming freshman, Hannah Jacoby, played for Victor, NY, a team which went 16–1 for the season and finished ranked #1 in New York State class AA. Jacoby is listed by the Bulls as a 6–0 defensive specialist (that’s pretty tall for a DS), but she played outside hitter in high school.
Buffalo will have three setters on the roster: Leigh, senior Kyndal Bacon and junior Emma Puzausky. Bacon was the full time setter for most of the spring season, finishing with 10.5 assists per set after she took over the setter position full time. Puzausky has appeared over her freshman and sophomore years mostly in the two setter offense.
At the outside hitter position, Buffalo has sophomore Milla Malik, who was selected to the All-MAC Freshman team and Second Team All-MAC in the spring. Malik led the Bulls with 3.77 kills per set, which was 5th in the MAC, and was 6th in the MAC in points per set.
Senior Monika Simkova returns at the outside hitter position, averaging 1.44 kills per set in the spring, and led the team in aces with 0.39 per set, good for 2nd in the MAC. Sophomore Stacia Gollogly is also competing for the outside hitter position (1.47 kills per set in limited playing time). Futey also will compete for time at the outside hitter position.
At right side, Buffalo sophomore Emma Gielas comes off a strong freshman year in which she averaged 2.82 kills per set and had an attacking percentage of 0.232, best among the Bulls’ pin hitters. Simkova also plays right side.
At middle blocker, junior Courtney Okwara returns, recording 0.67 blocks per set and a 0.276 hitting percentage as a sophomore, both highs among returning players. Sophomores Lauren Valentic and Olivia DeBortoli, both of whom played only sparingly in the spring, will compete for the other middle blocker slot. DeBortoli picked up 8 blocks in 6 sets against Kent State in the spring.
Junior Abby Leigh, older sister of Mandy Leigh, and also a graduate of Padua Franciscan, will compete for one (or more) of the front row positions. As a freshman, Abby played all three front row positions, and as a sophomore, she played outside hitter and defensive specialist and serving specialist. Over her two years, she has appeared in 165 of 197 sets for the Bulls, so her versatility and ability keeps her on the court.
The back row will be led by junior team captain Jenna Sonnenberg, who played her sophomore season as libero, after playing defensive specialist as a freshman. Sonnenberg led the team with 3.83 digs per set, and also led the team in reception percentage (among players with 20 or more receptions).
Senior Paige Beck returns on the back line, having played libero as a sophomore and defensive specialist as a junior. She had 1.25 digs per set, and was second on the team in reception percentage. Sophomore defensive specialist Emilie Davis played sparingly as a freshman. Jacoby rounds out the back row.
- Delaney Gallagher joins the coaching staff, replacing Whitney Miller who was on the Bulls’ staff for just one year. Gallagher served as a graduate assistant at Louisiana Monroe last year. David Beck is the other assistant coach, now starting his third year with the Bulls.
- Jacoby will wear uniform number 20. She will be the first Bull to wear a uniform number higher than 19 in this century.
- Bacon’s 10.5 assists per set after she took over the full-time setting duties would have been 4th in the MAC, but of course the official list uses the entire season statistics.
- Nordmann spent time with the Bulls in the preseason as a student volunteer.
- Morgan Verheyen is no longer on the Bulls roster, after two years. She played outside hitter.
- Yet another Padua Franciscan incoming freshman will play in the MAC for Miami (OH). That is Brooke Cirigliano.