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Volleyball Finishes Spring at 5–0

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L-to-R: Junior right side Emma Gielas, sophomore outside hitter Maria Futey, senior middle blocker Courtney Okwara
ubbulls.com

The UB Volleyball team finished their spring season with a 4–0 victory over Niagara on Saturday. The Bulls finished the spring with a record of 5–0 and only lost two sets.

The Bulls took the first three sets against Niagara 25–21, 25–20 and 25–15. Buffalo trailed most of the fourth set, and found themselves behind 24–20. The Bulls then went on an 8–2 run to take the set 28–26. Niagara had six set points, but could not convert.

Junior right side Emma Gielas, the leading scorer from the fall among returning players, began the comeback. Back-to-back kills by Gielas, then Gielas and senior middle blocker Olivia Debortoli came up with a stuff block, to tie the set at 24. Sophomore outside hitter Katrin Trebichavská scored a powerful kill to tie the set at 25. And then it was Emma Gielas time: a kill by Gielas tied the set at 26. A tough serve by junior defensive specialist Emilie Davis resulted in an overpass which Gielas slammed down to give the Bulls a one point lead, and then a tip by Gielas ended the set.

Senior middle blocker Courtney Okwara had a strong match on offense and on defense. Trabichavská also had a strong match on offense, and from the service line, where she picked up back-to-back aces in the 2nd set after Buffalo had fallen behind 4–0. Sophomore setter Mandy Leigh picked up three aces, two of them back-to-back, in a 10–0 run by the Bulls in the third set. Debortoli also had a strong blocking performance in the third set.

Notes:

  • Backup setter, senior Emma Puzauski, entered the match to start the second set, but appeared to get injured on the second play, and (apparently) asked to be removed from the court. She did not return. I’m not sure what happened, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a lower body injury (reserves in volleyball stand during the match, unless they have a lower body injury in which case they sit, and Puzauski stood for the rest of the match).
  • Debortoli, who almost never serves, picked up two strong serves, the first one resulting in a Niagara overpass, which should have been turned into a point for the Bulls, but the Buffalo attack went out of bounds. On her second serve, more weak passing by Niagara led to a free ball to Buffalo and a UB point. On her third serve, she hit the ball into the net. Two out of three ain’t bad.
  • Maria Futey, who normally plays outside hitter and scores well, played only back row (and played one set at libero).
  • Senior middle blocker Abby Leigh only played back row again, as apparently she still has not been medically cleared to play front row. She missed most of last year with a concussion. Abby Leigh playing in the back row led to some unusual attacks, from the back row right, something rarely seen in women’s college volleyball (most back row attacks come from the middle back position). These were designed plays, Mandy Leigh setting the ball to her sister Abby. Since UB coach Scott Smith took over, he has largely eschewed (yes that’s a real word) back row attacks, which were a huge part of the offense of his predecessor Blair Brown Lipsitz. I enjoy back row attacks, so I was pleased to see a few.
  • Niagara just hired their new coach Ren Cefra in March.