A week ago, the summer preview series expanded from a single student-athlete to explore Men's Soccer's freshman class. Now, we do the same with volleyball's incoming class, a group that's remained a bit in the shadows after being quickly cobbled together by new coach Blair Brown Lipsitz this spring.
Prior to his sudden departure for West Virginia, Reed Sunahara had pulled in two recruits to join the Bulls in 2015. One, Madison Clark, has stuck through the transition, and won't be traveling far from her Williamsville home. Playing for Williamsville South, Clark was a key part of the Billies' 2014 state title and was named MVP of the State Tournament.
Clark is listed at setter for the Bulls, which is suddenly the most crowded line on the depth chart. I couldn't begin to guess what her chances of seeing the floor are this year, but at 6'2" she's the second-tallest player on the team, and UB would suffer no height disadvantage when her spot in the rotation draws her to the front.
Two other incoming freshmen were at least announced by the school: outside hitters Raven Jordan (from Loudon County, VA) and Valisha Watkins (from the eastern edge of Cleveland). Jordan in particular earned high praise from Brown Lipsitz, and comes to UB after leading her Briar Woods High School team to a Virginia AAAAA State Championship. (Virginia's classifications run from 1A to 6A.) Watkins played only for her club as a junior, but led her Beachwood team to a program-best 15 wins in 2014. She had originally committed to Texas-Pan American, but presumably reopened her recruitment after UTPA merged with UT-Rio Grande Valley this summer.
Last year it took half the season for freshman Skyler Day to settle in to regular production and floor time for the Bulls, but with Megan Lipski the only returning outside hitter, I wouldn't be surprised to see both Jordan and Watkins in the rotation from Day One. Jordan at 5'9" will be one of the shorter players on the team, but can jump plenty high:
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The rest of the class has flown under the radar without an official announcement from UB. In Abby Beecher (Penfield) and Kelly Fitzpatrick (St. Anthony's) there's two more New York commits. Fitzpatrick is yet another setter, but also a UB Athletics legacy: her father, John, played basketball at UB from 1979 to 1983. I'm going to guess that Clark would be above her in the pecking order should they surpass Prinzbach or Lin at setter.
Beecher originally committed to Syracuse, and said some very, very nice things about the Orange. I'm not sure what changed, but Abby looks like someone who could really help the program. Her Penfield team fell one game short of a state title, she graduated with the school's all-time digs record, and she was named First Team All-NYS in Class AA and to the Class AA NYSPHSAA All-Tournament Team. Abby is listed as a defensive specialist/libero on the UB roster, and it will be interesting to see how much playing time she can grab away from Niki Bozinoski, and to a lesser extent Tessa Ooyama.
Finally, Megan Wernette of Naperville, IL, who will step in as UB's tallest player. At 6'3", her likely primary role is as blocker depth in the middle behind Amber Hatchett, Akeila Lain, and Cassie Shado, but she's also listed as a right-side hitter on the roster. She led her Naperville North team in hitting - both total kills and hitting percentage - as a senior. I can't find too much information on her, but we might learn more about her quick if she can contribute offensively to a team looking for hitters.
This is the last volleyball post of the player highlight series. Full team previews will start with this volleyball group on Monday, and the rest of the Olympic sports teams will follow daily, though I still have more player previews for them in the interim.