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Summer Olympic Previews: Buffalo Volleyball's roster turnover

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Believe it or not, we're under a month until the 2016-17 UB Athletic year begins with Women's Soccer taking on Hofstra in State College, PA. While Tim's hard at work previewing Football, it's time to get going on previewing UB's fall (and early winter) Olympic sports, as well.

UB Athletics

We've used the words 'turbulent' and 'tumultuous' so much the last few years that it's actually difficult to decode which team we're talking about. Men's Basketball has weathered their storm with flying colors. Women's Basketball had a better-than-expected regular season before catching lightning. Volleyball has maintained a historically (for UB's MAC era) strong quality of play under three different coaches, but faces another year of a young team with little continuity.

In time our Olympic previews will work around to a more individual look at this year's group, but it feels appropriate to start with the continued scholarship turnover in Alumni Arena. Three consecutive eighth-place finishes and two appearances in the MAC Tournament under three different coaches is worth celebrating, and Volleyball is not the only program struggling recently to keep student-athletes around for four years of eligibility, but Blair Brown-Lipsitz' group is effectively in no better shape than last year when looking at the scholarship distribution.

Names in bold are currently on the roster. Names in strikeout were once on the roster and in the column that reflects where they would be had they stayed. Of that group, those in italics left the program during the transition from Reed Sunahara to Lipsitz, and those not in italics left after Lipsitz' first year.

1 year left 2 years left 3 years left 4 years left
OH Skyler Day Valisha Watkins Lauren Slavoski
Raven Jordan Rachel Sanks
Taina Benitez
RS/MB Ana Paula Kuthy Rodriguez Ally Boskat
MB Amber Hatchett Cassie Shado Megan Wernette Kristina Curcin
Hannah Varley
S Megan Lin Madison Clark Scout McLerran
Kelly Fitzpatrick
L/DS Danielle Marotto Tessa Ooyama Abby Beecher Hannah Watson
Niki Bozinoski
Maddie Torbeck

To some extent, 2016-17 was always going to be a rebuilding season for Buffalo, with three huge contributors -- Megan Lipski, Akeila Lain, and Marissa Prinzbach --  graduating. UB is helped by Amber Hatchett's return, and is otherwise young. Unfortunately, they're even younger than they may have been had Lipsitz retained a trio of back-row players in Tessa Ooyama, Niki Bozinoski, and Abby Beecher. Pile on with a two-year exodus of attacking power in not only Lipski and Lain, but post-Sunahara transfers Skyler Day and Tahleia Bishop, and UB has gone from a freshman- and sophomore-heavy roster in 2015-16 to a freshman- and sophomore-heavy roster in 2016-17.

Players of course move on for different reasons -- Ooyama for one ended her career due to injuries -- and I'm certainly not out to vilify Coach Lipsitz. However, programs run the risk of falling into a vicious cycle of freshman-heavy squads that are then culled down by transfers, necessitating another large freshman class the following year.

There's plenty more to say about Volleyball in 2016-17, and we'll certainly get there. But in what should be Year Two of Lipsitz' program-building, it feels more like Year One, and regardless of names, pedigrees, or X's and O's, it will be hard to gauge anything this season without looking first through the lens of a young, young team.

Future Volleyball topics in our summer preview series:

  • Getting to know the new faces
  • Watkins, Jordan, Wernette, and Clark: Avoiding a sophomore slump
  • Hatchett and Shado: Upperclass leadership up front
  • Sorting out a pecking order at Outside Hitter
  • What are fair expectations this year?